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OLD ENGLISH POEMS 



TRANSLATED INTO THE ORIGINAL METER 

TOGETHER WITH 
SHOET SELECTIONS FEOM OLD ENGLISH PROSE 



BY -^^ ./--tcrvx- 

■^">"-^. COSETTE FAUST^Ph.D 

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH IN THE SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY 

AND 

STITH THOMPSON, Ph.D. 

INSTRUCTOR IN ENGLISH IN THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS 



SCOTT, FORESMAN AND COMPANY 
CHICAGO NEW YORK 



.0^ 

<il^ 



Copyright, 1918 
By Scott, Foresman and Company 



AUG c2 1918 



ROBERT O. LAW COMPANY 

EDITION BOOK MANUFACTURERS 
CHICAGO, U.S.A. 



©Ci.A503191 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

I. PAGAN POETRY 

J 1. EPIC OR HEROIC GROUP 

^ PAGE 

WiDSITH . 15 

Deor 's Lament 26 

»' Waldhere 29 

The Fight at Finnsburg 34 

2. GNOMIC GROUP 
, Charms 

1. Charm for Bewitched Land 38 

2. Charm for a Sudden Stitch 42 

Riddles 

1. A Storm 44 

2. A Storm . . 45 

3. A Storm _ 46 

5. A Shield [[ 48 

7. A Swan .... 49 

8. A Nightingale 49 

14. A Horn 50 

15. A Badger 51 

23. A Bow 52 

26. A Bible 52 

45. Dough , 54 

47. A Bookworm 54 

60. A Reed , 54 

Exeter Gnomes 56 

The Fates of Men 58 

3. ELEGIAC GROUP 

The Wanderer ...... 62 

The Seafarer 68 

The Wife 's Lament 72 

The Husband 's Message 75 

The Ruin , 78 

3 



4 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

II. CHRISTIAN POETRY 

1. C^DMONIAN SCHOOL. ^,^^ 

PAGE 

C^DMON 's Hymn 83 

Bede 's Death Song 84 

Selection from Genesis — The Offering of Isaac 85 

Selection from Exodus — The Crossing of the Red Sea 90 

2. CYNEWULF AND HIS SCHOOL 

a. Cynewulf 

(1) Selections from Christ 95 

1. Hymn to Christ 96 

2. Hymn to Jerusalem 96 

3. Joseph and Mary 97 

4. Eunie Passage 100 

(2) Selections from Elene 103 

1. The Vision of the Cross 103 

2. The Discovery of the Cross 105 

b. Anonymous Poems of the Cynewulfian School 

(1) The Dream of the Rood 108 

(2) Judith 116 

(3) The Phoenix 132 

(4) The Grave 157 

III. POEMS FROM THE CHRONICLE 

The Battle of Brunnanburg 159 

The Battle of Maldon 163 

APPENDIX— PROSE SELECTIONS 

Account of the Poet C^dmon 179 

Alfred's Preface to His Translation of Gregory's ''Pastoral 

Care" 183 

Conversion of Edwin 187 

Voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan 189 



PREFACE 

These selections from Old English poetry Have been 
translated to meet the needs of that ever-increasing 
body of students who cannot read the poems in their 
original form, but who wish nevertheless to enjoy to 
some extent the heritage of verse which our early 
English ancestors have left for us. Especially in the 
rapid survey of English literature given in most of 
our colleges, a collection of translations covering the 
Anglo-Saxon period and reflecting the form and spirit 
of the original poems should add much to a fuller 
appreciation of the varied and rich, though uneven, 
literary output of our earliest singers. 

In subject-matter these Old English poems are full 
of the keenest interest to students of history, of cus- 
toms, of legend, of folk-lore, and of art. They form 
a truly national literature; so that one who has read 
them all has learned much not only of the life of the 
early English, but of the feelings that inspired these 
folk, of their hopes, their fears, and their superstitions, 
of their whole outlook on life. They took their poetry 
seriously, as they did everything about them, and 
often in spite of crudity of expression, of narrow 
vision, and of conventionalized modes of speech, this 
very *^high seriousness" raises an otherwise mediocre 
poem to the level of real literature. "Whatever may 



g OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

be said of the limitations of Old English poetry, of 
its lack of humor, of the narrow range of its senti- 
ments, of the imitativeness of many of its most repre- 
sentative specimens, it cannot be denied the name of 
real literature; for it is the direct expression of the 
civilization that gave it birth — a civilization that we 
must understand if we are to appreciate the charac- 
teristics of its more important descendants of our own 
time. 

Although the contents of these poems can be satis- 
factorily studied in any translation, the effect of the 
peculiar meter that reinforces the stirring spirit 
of Old English poetry is lost unless an attempt is made 
to reproduce this metrical form in the modern English 
rendering. The possibility of retaining the original 
meter in an adequate translation was formerly the 
subject of much debate, but since Professor Gummere's 
excellent version of Beoivulf and the minor epic poems,^ 
and other recent successful translations of poems in the 
Old English meter, there can be no question of the pos- 
sibility of putting Anglo-Saxon poems into readable 
English verse that reproduces in large measure the 
effect of the original. To do this for the principal Old 
English poems, with the exception of Beowulf y is the 
purpose of the present volume. 

Except for the subtlest distinctions between the types 
of half verse, strict Old English rules for the allitera- 
tive meter have been adhered to. These rules may be 
stated as follows : 

'^The Oldest English Epic, New York, 1909. 



PBEFACE 7 

1. The lines are divided into two half -lines, the divi- 
sion being indicated by a space in the middle. 

2. The half -lines consist of two accented and a vary- 
ing number of unaccented syllables. Each half-line 
contains at least four syllables. Occasional half -lines 
are lengthened to three accented syllables, possibly 
for the purpose of producing an effect of solemnity. 

3. The two half -lines are bound together by begin- 
ning-rime or alliteration ; i. e., an agreement in sound 
between the beginning letters of any accented syllables 
in the line. For example, in the line 

G^uthhere there ^ave me a goodly jewel 

the ^'s form the alliteration. The third accent sets 
the alliteration for the line and is known as the * * rime- 
giver. ' ' With it agree the first and the second accent, or 
either of them. The fourth accent must not, however, 
agree with the rime-giver. Occasionally the first and 
third accents will alliterate together and the second 
and fourth, as. 

The i(;eary in /leart against Wyrd has no /lelp ; 

or the first and fourth may have the alliteration on 
one letter, while the second and third have it on 
another, as, 

Then Tieavier ^rows the grief of his /leart. 

These two latter forms are somewhat unusual. The 
standard line is that given above : 

(ruthhere there grave me a groodly jewel, 



3 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

or 

A /lundred generations ; hoary and stained with red, 
or 

With rings of ^old and gilded cups. 

All consonants alliterate with themselves, though 
usually sh, sp, and 5^ agree only with the same com- 
bination. Vowels alliterate with one another. 

In the following passage the alliterating letters are 
indicated by italics : 

Then a hsmd of hold knights busily gathered, 
^een men at the conflict ; with courage they stepped 

forth, 
bearing banners, ?^rave-hearted companions, 
And /ared to the /iglit, /orth in right order, 
Heroes under /lelmets from the holj city 
At the c^awning of day ; (tinned forth their shields 
A /oud-voiced a?arm. Now listened in joy 
The lank woU in the 'i^ood and the wsm raven, 
battle-hungry &ird, both knowing well 
That the gallant people would ^ive them soon 
A /east on the /ated; now /lew on their track 
The deadly devourer, the 6^ewy-winged eagle, 
/Singing his war song, the 5wart-coated bird, 
The /lorned of beak. 

Judith, vv. 199-212. 

Besides the distinctive meter in which the Old Eng- 
lish poems are written, there are several qualities of 



PEE FACE 9 

style for which they are peculiar. No one can read 
a page of these poems without being struck by the 
parallel structure that permeates the whole body of 
Old English verse. Expressions are changed slightly 
and repeated from a new point of view, sometimes with 
a good effect but quite as often to the detriment of 
the lines. These parallelisms have been retained in the 
translation in so far as it has been possible, but some- 
times the lack of inflectional endings in English has 
prevented their literal translation. 

Accompanying these parallelisms, and often a part of 
them, are the frequent synonyms so characteristic of 
Old English poetry. These synonymous expressions are 
known as ^^kennings.'' They are not to be thought 
of as occasional metaphors employed at the whim of 
the poet; they had, in most cases, already received 
a conventional meaning. Thus the king was always 
spoken of as **ring giver," ^^ protector of earls,'' or 
^^ bracelet bestower.'' The queen was the ^^ weaver of 
peace"; the sea the ^^ship road," or ** whale path," 
or **gannet's bath." 

Old English poetry is conventionalized to a remark- 
able degree. Even those aspects of nature that the 
poets evidently enjoyed are often described in the 
most conventional of words and phrases. More than 
half of so fine a poem as The Battle of Brunnanburg 
is taken bodily from other poems. No description of 
a battle was complete without a picture of the birds 
of prey hovering over the field. Heroes were always 
assembling for banquets and receiving rewards of 



10 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

rings at the hand of the king. These conventional 
phrases and situations, added to a thorough knowledge 
of a large number of old Germanic myths, constituted 
a great part of the equipment of the typical Old Eng- 
lish minstrel or scop, such as one finds described in 
Widsith or Dear's Lament. 

It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that 
the poems are convention and nothing more. A sym- 
pathetic reading will undoubtedly show many high 
poetic qualities. Serious and grave these poems 
always are, but they do express certain of the darker 
moods with a sincerity and power that is far from 
commonplace. At times they give vivid glimpses of 
the spirit of man under the blighting influence of the 
^^dark ages." After reading these poems, we come to 
understand better the pessimistic mood of the author 
of The Wanderer when he says. 

All on earth is irksome to man. 

And we see how the winsome meadows of the land of 
the Phoenix must by their contrast have delighted the 
souls of men who were harassed on every side as our 
ancestors were. 

All of these distinguishing features of Old English 
poetry — the regular alliterative meter, the frequent 
parallelisms, the ^'kennings,'' and the general dark 
outlook on life will be found illustrated in the poems 
selected in this book. They cover the entire period of 
Old English literature and embrace every *^ school.'^ 

The order in which the poems are printed is in no 



PBEFACE 11 

sense original, but is that followed in most stand- 
ard textbooks. Naturally such artificial divisions as 
* * Pagan ' ' and ^ ' Christian ' ' are inexact. The ^ ^ pagan ' ' 
poems are only largely pagan; the ** Christian'^ pre- 
dominatingly Christian. On the whole, the grouping is 
perhaps accurate enough for practical purposes, and 
the conformity to existing textbooks makes the volume 
convenient for those who wish to use it to supplement 
these books. 

In addition to the poems, four short prose passages 
referred to by most historians of the literature have 
been included so as to add to the usefulness of the 
volume. 

In the translation of the poems the original meaning 
and word-order has been kept as nearly as modern 
English idiom and the exigencies of the meter would 
allow. Nowhere, we believe, has the possibility of an 
attractive alliteration caused violence to be done to 
the sense of the poem. 

The best diction to be used in such a translation is 
difficult to determine. The temptation is ever present 
to use the modern English descendant of the Anglo- 
Saxon word, even when it is very archaic in flavor. 
This tendency has been resisted, for it was desired to 
reproduce the effect of the original; and, though Old 
English poetry was conventional, it was probably not 
archaic: it was not out of date at the time it was 
written. Since the diction of these poems was usually 
very simple, it has been the policy of the translators 
to exclude all sophisticated expressions, and to retain 



12 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

words of Germanic origin or simple words of Latin 
derivation that do not suggest subtleties foreign to the 
mind of the Old English poet. 

The texts used as a standard for translation are 
indicated in the introductory notes to the different 
poems. Whenever a good critical edition of a poem 
has been available, it has been followed. Variations 
from the readings used in these texts are usually indi- 
cated where they are of any importance. In the 
punctuation and paragraphing of the poems, the vary- 
ing usage of the different editors has been disregarded 
and a uniform practice adopted throughout. 

Following these principles, the translators have 
attempted to reproduce for modern English readers 
the meaning and movement of the Old English orig- 
inals. It is their earnest hope that something of the 
fine spirit that breathes through much of this poetry 
will be found to remain in the translation. 

CosETTE Faust. 
Stith Thompson. 
March, 1918. 



I. PAGAN POETRY 



I. PAGAN POETRY 

h EPIC OR HEROIC GROUP 

WIDSITH 

[Critical edition: E. W. Chambers, Widsith: a Study in Old English 
Heroic Legend. Cambridge, 1912. 

Date: Probably late sixth or early seventh century. 

Alliterative translation: Gummere, Oldest English Epic (1910), p. 191, 

''Widsith — 'Farway' — the ideal wandering minstrel, tells of all the 
tribes among whom he has sojourned, of all the chieftains he has known. 
The first English students of the poem regarded it as autobiographical, as 
the actual record of his wanderings written by a scop; and were inclined 
to dismiss as interpolations passages mentioning princes whom it was 
chronologically impossible for a man who had met Ermanric to have 
known. This view was reduced to an absurdity by Haigh. 

* ' The more we study the growth of German heroic tradition, the more 
clear does it become that Widsith and Deor' reflect that tradition. They 
are not the actual outpourings of actual poets at the court of Ermanric 
or the Heodenings. What the poems sung in the court of Ermanric were 
like we shall never know: but we can safely say that they were unlike 
Widsith. . . . The Traveller's tale is a fantasy of some man, keenly 
interested in the old stories, who depicts an ideal wandering singer, and 
makes him move hither and thither among the tribes and the heroes whose 
stories he loves. In the names of its chiefs, in the names of its tribes, 
and above all in its spirit, Widsith reflects the heroic age of the migra- 
tions, an age which had hardly begun in the days of Ermanric. ' ' — 
Chambers, p. 4. 

Lines 75, 82-84 are almost certainly interpolated. With these rejected 
' ' the poem leaves upon us, ' ' says Chambers, ' ' a very definite impression. 
It is a catalogue of the tribes and heroes of Germany, and many of these 
heroes, though they may have been half legendary already to the writer 
of the poem, are historic characters who can be dated with accuracy."] 

Note. — In the footnotes, no attempt is made to discuss peoples or persons 
mentioned in this poem unless they are definitely known and are of importance 
for an understanding of the meaning of the lines. 

15 



16 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Widsith now spoke, his word-hoard unlocked, 
He who traveled the widest among tribes of men, 
Farthest among folk: on the floor he received 
The rarest of gifts. From the race of the Myrgings 

^ His ancestors sprang. With Ealhhild the gracious. 
The fajr framer of peace, for the first time 
He sought the home of the Hrseda king. 
From the Angles in the East — 'of Eormanric, 
Fell and faithless. Freely he spoke forth: 

1^ ^^Many a royal ruler of a realm I have known; 

Every leader should live a life of virtue; 

One earl after the other shall order his land, 

He who wishes and works for the weal of his throne ! 

Of these for a while was Hwala the best, 

< 

4. Myrging. Nothing is known with any degree of certainty about this 
tribe. Chambers concludes that they dwelt south of the River Eider, which 
is the present boundary between Schleswig and Holstein, and that they 
belonged to the Suevic stock of peoples. See vv. 84, 85, below. 

5. Ealhhild. See notes to vv. 8 and 97, below. Much discussion has taken 
place as to who Ealhhild was. Summing up his lengthy discussion, Cham- 
bers says (Widsith , p. 28) : "For these reasons it seems best to regard 
Ealhhild as the murdered wife of Eormanric, the Anglian equivalent of the 
Gothic Sunllda and the Northern Swanhild." 

7. Hrwda king. That is, the Gothic king. 

8. Angles. One of the Low Germanic tribes that later settled in Britain, 
and from whom the name England is derived. Their original home was i)i 
the modern Schleswig-Holstein. Eormanric. See v. 88, below, and Dear's 
Lament, v. 21. He was a king of the Goths. After his death, about 375 a.d., 
he came to be known as the typical bad king, covetous, fierce, and cruel. 
According to the Scandinavian form of the story, the king sends his son 
and a treacherous councillor, Bikki (the Becca of v. 19) to woo and bring 
to the court the maiden Swanhild. Bikki urges the son to woo her for him- 
self and then betrays him to his father, who has him hanged and causes 
Swanhild to be trampled to death by horses. Her brothers revenge her death 
and wound the king. At this juncture the Huns attack him, and during 
the attack Eormanric dies. 

11. The proverb, or "gnomic verse," is very common in Old English poetry. 
14. Hwula appears in the West Saxon genealogies as son of Beowi, son cC 
Sceaf (see Beowulf, vv. 4, 18). 



WIDSITH 17 

15 But Alexander of all of men 

Was most famous of lords, and he flourished the 

most 
Of all the earls whom on earth I have known. 
Attila ruled the Huns, Eormanric the Goths, 
Becca the Banings, the Burgundians Gifica. 
20 Caesar ruled the Greeks and Gaelic the Finns, 
Hagena the Holm-Bugians and Heoden the Glom- 
mas. 

15. Alexander [the Great], The writer speaks of many celebrities who were 
obviously too early for him to know personally. This passage is usually con- 
sidered to be an interpolation. 

18. Becca. See note to v. 8. The Banings are not definitely identified. 
The Burgundians were originally an East Germanic tribe. During the second 
and third centuries they were neighbors of the Goths and lived in the modern 
Posen. Later they moved west, and finally threatened Gaul, where in the 
middle of the fifth century they were defeated by the Roman general, Aetius. 
Shortly afterward they were defeated by the Huns. The remnant settled in 
Savoy, where they gradually recovered, and by the middle of the sixth century 
became an important nation. Gifica (or Gibica) was traditionally spoken 
of as an early king who ruled over the Burgundians while they were still 
in the east, living as neighbors of the Goths on the Vistula. 

20. Cwsarj was the name given to the Emperor of the East — the "Greek 
Emperor." The Finns were at that time located in their present home in 
Finland. 

21, 22. Hagena, Heoden, Wada. These heroes all belong to one myth-cycle, 
which was told in Europe for many centuries. It is diflQcult to reconstruct 
the story as it was known at the time Widsith was written, for it has received 
many additions at the hands of subsequent writers. The essential parts of 
the tale seem to be these : Heoden asks his servant, the sweet-singing Heor- 
renda, for help in wooing Hild, the daughter of Hagena. Heorrenda, enlist- 
ing the services of Wada, the renowned sea-monster (or sea-god) goes to 
woo Hild. By means of Wada's frightful appearance and skill in swordsman- 
ship they attract Hild's attention, and Heorrenda then sings so that the 
birds are shamed into silence. They then woo Hild and flee with her from 
her father's court. Hagena pursues, and Heoden, after marrying Ilild, engages 
him in battle. Each evening Hild goes to the battlefield and by magic 
awakens the warriors who have fallen, and they fight the same battle over 
day after day without ceasing. Heorrenda, the sweet singer of the Heodenings 
(i.e., of the court of Heoden) is mentioned in Dear's Lament, vv. 36 and 39. 
"Wada is a widely-known legendary character. He had power over the sea. 
He was the father of Weland, the Vulcan of Norse myth (see Dear's Lament, 



18 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Witta ruled the Swabians, Wacla the Haelsings, 

Meaca the Myrgings, Mearchealf the Hunclings, 

Theodoric ruled the Franks, Tliyle the Rondings, 
25 Breoca the Brondings, Billing the Wernas. 

Oswine ruled the Eowas and the Ytas Gefwulf ; 

Finn Folcwalding ruled the Frisian people. 

Sigehere ruled longest the Sea-Dane's kingdom. 

Hnaef ruled the Hocings, Helm the Wulfings, 
^^ Wald the Woings, Wod the Thuringians, 

Sseferth the Secgans, the Swedes Ongentheow. 

Sceafthere ruled the Ymbrians, Sceafa the Lom- 
bards, 

Hun the Hsetweras and Holen the Wrosnas. 

Hringweald was called the king of the pirates. 

Offa ruled the Angles, Alewih the Danes: 

V. 1, and Waldhcre, A, v. 2). The Holm-Rugians and the Hcelsings were 
in the fourth century on the Baltic coast of Germany. The Glommas are 
unknown. 

24. Theodoric, son of Chlodowech, king of the Franks, is meant, and not 
the famous Gothic king. Cf. v. 115, below. 

25. Breoca: the same as Breca, prince of the Brondings, the opponent of 
Beowulf in his famous swimming match {Beowulf, vv. 499-606). 

27, 28. Finn Folcwalding was the traditional hero of the Frisians. For 
fragments of the stories connected with him. see Beowulf, vv. 1068-1159, and 
the fragmentary poem, The Fight at Finnslmrg (p. 34, below). Hnwf, 
son of Hoc (hence ruler of the Hocings) also figures in the Finn story. 
Hnaef's sister marries Finn. For a summary of the story see the Introduc- 
tion to The Fight at Finnshurg. 

30. Thuringians. These people dwelt near the mouths of the Rhine and 
the Maas. 

31. Ongentheoio, the king of Sweden, is frequently mentioned in Beowulf 
(e.g., vv. 2476 and 2783). The Secgans are unknown, but they are mentioned 
in V. 62, below, and in The Fight at Finnshurg, v. 26. 

32. The ancient home of the Longohards (or Lombards) was between the 
Baltic and the Elbe. 

35. Off a: a legendary king of the Angles, while they still lived on the con- 
tinent toward the end of the fourth century. Legends of him are found in 
Denmark and in England. Chambers concludes that the Danish form is per- 
haps very near that known to the author of Widsith. Offa, the son of the 



35 



WIDSITH 19 

Among these men he was mightiest of all, 

But he equalled not Offa in earl-like deeds. 

For Offa by arms while only a child, 

First among fighters won the fairest of kingdoms ; 

40 Not any of his age in earlship surpassed him. 
In a single combat in the siege of battle 
He fixed the frontier at Fifeldore 
Against the host of the Myrgings, which was held 

thenceforth 
By Angles and Swabians as Offa had marked it. 

45 Hrothwulf and Hrothgar held for a long time 
A neighborly compact, the nephew and uncle. 
After they had vanquished the Viking races 
And Ingekrs array was overridden. 
Hewed down at Heorot the Heathobard troop. 

^0 So forth I fared in foreign lands 
All over the earth; of evil and good 
There I made trial, torn from my people; 
Far from my folk I have followed my travels. 
Therefore I sing the song of my wanderings, 

king, though a giant in stature, is dumb from his youth, and when the 
German prince from the south challenges the aged king to send a champion 
to defend his realm in single combat, OfEa's speech is restored and he goes to 
the combat. The fight was held at Fifeldore, the River Eider, which was along 
the frontier between the Germans and the Danes. Here Offa fought against 
two champions and defeated them both, thus establishing the frontier for 
many years. Note that the author of Widsith, who is cf the Myrging race, 
is here celebrating the defeat of his own people. 

44. Swabians probably refers to the Myrgings, who were of the stock of the 
Suevi. 

45. Hrothwulf and Hrothgar. See Beowulf, vv. 1017 and 1181 flC. Hroth- 
gar is Hrothwulf 's uncle, and they live on friendly terms at Heorot (Hroth- 
gar's hall). Later it seems that Hrothwulf fails to perform his duties as the 
guardian of Hrothgar's son, thus bi-inging to an end his years of friendliness 
to Hrothgar and his sons. The fight referred to is against Ingeld, Hrothgar's 
son-in-law who invaded the Danish kingdom. (See Beowulf, vv. 84, 2024 fF.) 



20 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

s^ Declare before the company in the crowded mead- 
hall, 
How gifts have been given me by the great men of 

earth. 
I was with the Huns and with the Hrseda-Goths, 
With the Swedes and with the Geats and with the 

southern Danes, 
With the Wenlas I was and with the Vikings and 

with the Wserna folk. 
60 With the Gepidae 5 was and with the Wends and 

with the Gefligas. 
With the Angles I was and with the Swaefe and 

with the ^nenas. 
With the Saxons I was and with the Secgans and 

with the Suardones. 
With the Hronas I was and with the Deanas and 

with the Heatho-Raemas. 
With the Thuringians I was and with the Thro- 

wendas ; 
^^ And with the Burgundians, where a bracelet was 

given me. 

57. See v. 18, above. 

58. The Geats were probably settled in southern Sweden. They were the 

tribe to "wbicb Beowulf belonged. 

60. The Gepidce were closely related to the Goths and were originally 
located near them at the mouth of the Vistula River. The We7ids were a 
Slavonic tribe who finally pressed up into the lands vacated in the great 
migrations by the Germans between the Elbe and the Vistula. 

61. AnfiJcs. See vv. S and 44. above. Sirwfe. See line 44, above. 

62. The Saxons, who with the Angles and Jutes settled Britain in the fifth 
and sixth centuries, lived originally near the mouth of the Elbe. 

63. The HeathO'Raemas dwelt near the modern Christiania in Norway. See 
Beowulf, line 518, in which Breca in the swimming match reaches their land. 

65. Burgundians, See v. 19. 



WIDSITH 21 

Gutlihere there gave me a goodly jewel, 

As reward for my song : not slothful that king ! 

With the Franks I was and with the Frisians and 

with the Frumtingas. 
With the Eugians I was and with the Glommas and 

with the Roman strangers. 
70 Likewise in Italy with ^If wine I was : 

He had, as I have heard, a hand the readiest 
For praiseworthy deeds of prowess and daring; 
With liberal heart he lavished his treasures, 
Shining armlets — the son of Eadwine. 
75 I was with the Saracens and with the Serings ; 
With the Greeks I was and with the Finns and 

with far-famed Caesar, 
Who sat in rule over the cities of revelry- 
Over the riches and wealth of the realm of the 

Welsh. 
With the Scots I was and with the Picts and with 

the Scride-Finns. 

66. Guthhere was a ruler of the Burgundians (v. 19). He was probably at 
Worms when he gave the jewel to Widsith. Guthhere, because of his great 
battle with Attila and his tragic defeat, became a great legendary hero. (See 
Waldhere, B, v. 14.) 

67. The Franks and the Frisians are spoken of together in Beowulf (vv. 
1207, 1210, 2917), where they together repulse an attack made by Hygelac. 
The Frisians probably dwelt west of the Zuider Zee. 

68. The Rugians and the Glommas. See note to v. 21, above. 

70. JElfwine: (otherwise known as Alboin), the Lombard conqueror of 
Italy. He was the son of Audoin (Eadwine) . 

75-87. Most scholars agree that these lines are interpolated, since they 
do not fit in with the rest of the poem. 

75. Serings: possibly Syrians. 

78. Welsh: a term applied to the Romans by the Old English writers. 

79. The Scride-Finns were settled in northern Norway— not in Finland, 
where the main body of Finns were found. They are perhaps to be identified 
with the modern Lapps. 



22 ■ OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

80 With the Lidwicingas I was and with the Leonas 

and with the Longobards, 
With the Haethnas and with the Haerethas and with 

the Hundings; 
With the Israelites I was and with the Assyrians, 
And with the Hebrews and with the Egyptians and 

with the Hindus I was, 
With the Medes I was and with the Persians and 

with the Myrging folk, 
^^ And with the Mof dings I was and against the Myr- 
ging band, 
And with the Amothingians. With the East Thu- 

ringians I was 
And with the Eolas and with the Istians and with 

the Idumingas. 
And I was with Eormanric all of the time; 
There the king of the Goths gave me in honor 
^0 The choicest of bracelets — the chief of the 

burghers — 
On which were six hundred pieces of precious gold, 
Of shining metal in shillings counted ; 
I gave over this armlet to Eadgils then, 
To my kind protector when I came to my home, 

80. Lidwicingas: the inhabitants of Armorica. Longobards. See v. 32. 

81. The Hundings are also mentioned in line 23. 
84, S5. Myrging. See line 4. 

86. East Thuringians. Probably those Thuringians dwelling in the sixth 
century east of the Elbe. 

87. Istians. Probably the Esthonians mentioned in the Voyage o/ Wulfstan. 
(See p. 194, line 151, below.) The Idumingas were neighbors of the Istians. 
Both were probably Lettish or Lithuanian tribes, , 

88. Eormanric. See note to v. 8, above. 
93. Eadgils was king of the Myrgings. 



WIDSITH 23 

95 To my beloved prince, the lord of the Myrgings, 
Who gave me the land that was left by my father ; 
And Ealhhild then also another ring gave me, 
Queen of the doughty ones, the daughter of Ead- 

wine. 
Her praise has passed to all parts of the world, 
100 "Wherever in song I sought to tell 

Where I knew under heavens the noblest of queens. 
Golden-adorned, giving forth treasures. 

Then in company with Scilling, in clear ringing 
voice 
'Fore our beloved lord I uplifted my song; 
105 Loudly the harp in harmony sounded; 
Then many men with minds discerning 
Spoke of our lay in unsparing praise. 
That they never had heard a nobler song. 

Then I roamed through all the realm of the 
Goths ; 
110 Unceasing I sought the surest of friends. 

The crowd of comrades of the court of Eormanric. 
Hethca sought I and Beadeca and the Harlungs, 
Emerca sought I and Fridla and East-Gota, 
Sage and noble, the sire of Unwen. 
115 Secca sought I and Becca, Seafola and Theodoric, 

97. Ealhhild. See note to v. 5, above. She was (v. 9S) daughter ef 
Eadwine, King of the Lombards (v. 74). The meaning here is not absolutely 
clear, but Chambers makes a good case for considering her the wife of 
Eormanric. He thinks that she followed her husband's gift to Widsith by 
a gift of another ring, in return for which Widsith sings her praises, 

112, 113. Emerca and Fridla, the Harlungs, were murdered by their uncle, 
Eormanric. East-Gota, or Ostrogotha, the king of the united Goths in the 
middle of the third century, was a direct ancestor of Eormanric. 

115. Becca. See note to v. 8. Seafola and Theodoric: probably Theodoric 



24 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Heathoric and Sifeca, Hlithe and Incgentheow. 

Eadwine sought I and Elsa ^gelmund and Hungar 

And the worthy troop of the With-Myrgings. 

Wulf here sought I and Wyrmhere : there war was 
seldom lacking 
120 ^Vhen the host of the Hraedas with hardened swords 

Must wage their wars by the woods of Vistula 

To hold their homes from the hordes of Attila. 

Eaedhere sought I and Rondhere, Rumstan and 
Gislhere, 

Withergield and Freotheric, Wudga and Hama: 
125 These warriors were not the worst of comrades, 

Though their names at the last of my list are num- 
bered. 

Full oft from that host the hissing spear 

Fiercely flew on the foemen's troopers. 

There the wretches ruled with royal treasure, 
130 Wudga and Hama, over women and men. 

So I ever have found as I fared among men 

That in all the land most beloved is he 

of Verona and his retainer, Sabene of Ravenna. On the other hand, the refer- 
ences may be to Theoderic the Frank. (See v. 24.) 

116. Sifeca: probably the evil councillor who brought about the murder 
by Eormanric of his nephews, the Harlungs. (See vv. 112, 113, note.) 

117-119. These names are all very obscure. 

120. Hrcedas: the Goths. 

121. The struggle between the Goths and the Huns did not actually occur 
in the Vistula wood, but after the Goths had left the Vistula. 

124, 130. Wudga and Hama. The typical outlaws of German tradition. 
Hama appears in Beowulf (v. 1198) as a' fugitive who has stolen the Brising 
necklace and fled from Eormanric. Wudga, the Widia of WaldJicre (B, vv. 4, 
9) came finally to be known for his treachery. He was connected with the 
court of Theodoric and received gifts from him, but he is later represented 
as having betrayed the king. The traditions about both of these men are 
badly confused. 



WIDSITE 25 

To whom God givetli a goodly kingdom 
To hold as long as he liveth here. 

135 Thus wandering widely through the world there 
go 
Minstrels of men through many lands, 
Express their needs and speak their thanks. 
Ever south and north some one they meet 
Skillful in song who scatters gifts, 

140 To further his fame before his chieftains, 
To do deeds of honor, till all shall depart. 
Light and life together: lasting praise he gains, 
And has under heaven the highest of honor- 

135-143. One of the passages that give us a definite impression of the 
scop, or minstrel, and his life. It s(>rves very well for the conclusion of a 
poem descriptive of the life of a minstrel. 



DEOR'S LAMENT 

[Critical text and translation: Dickins, Eunic and Heroic Poems, 
Cambridge University Press, 1915, p. 70. i 

Alliterative translation: Gummere, Oldest English Epic (1910), p. 186. 

The metrical arrangement of this poem into strophes with a constant 
refrain is very unusual in the poetry of the Anglo-Saxons, though it is 
common among their Scandinavian kinsmen. This fact has led some 
scholars to believe that we have here a translation from the Old Norse. 
Professor Gummere, however, makes a good case against this assumption. 

The first three strophes refer to the widely known story of Weland, or 
Wayland, the Vulcan of Norse myth. The crafty king, Nithhad, cap- 
tures Weland, fetters him (according to some accounts, hamstrings him), 
and robs him of the magic ring that gives him power to fly. Beadohild, 
Nithhad 's daughter, accompanied by her brothers, goes to Weland and 
has him mend rings for her. In this way he recovers his own ring and 
his power to fly. Before leaving he kills the sons of Nithhad, and, 
stupefying Beadohild with liquor, puts her to shame. 

To Weland came woes and wearisome trial, 
And cares oppressed the constant earl; 
His lifelong companions were pain and sorrow, 
And winter-cold weeping: his ways were oft hard, 
After Nithhad had struck the strong man low, 
Cut the supple sinew-bands of the sorrowful earl. 
That has passed over : so this may depart ! 

Beadohild bore her brothers' death 

Less sorely in soul than herself and her plight 

1. Weland, or Wayland ; the blacksmith of the Norse gods. He is repre- 
sented as being the son of Wada (see Widsith, v. 22, note). 

8. Beadohild was violated by Weland, and this stanza refers to the approach- 
ing birth of her son Widia (or Wudga). (See Widsith, vv. 124, 130, and Wald- 
here, B, vv. 4-10.) 

26 



DEOB'S LAMENT 27 

10 When she clearly discovered her cursed condition, 
That unwed she should bear a babe to the world. 
She never could think of the thing that must happen. 
That has passed over: so this may depart! 

Much have we learned of Maethhild's life : 
15 How the courtship of Geat was crowned with grief, 
How love and its sorrows allowed him no sleep. 
That has passed over: so this may depart! 

Theodoric held for thirty winters 
The town of the Meerings : that was told unto many. 
20 That has passed over: so this may depart! 

We all have heard of Eormanric 
Of the wolfish heart : a wide realm he had 
Of the Gothic kingdom. Grim was the king. 
Many men sat and bemoaned their sorrows, 
25 Woefully watching and wishing always 

14. The exact meaning of the third strophe as here translated is not clear. 
To make it refer to the story of Nithhad and Weland, it is necessary to make 
certain changes suggested by Professor Tupper {Modern Philology, October, 
1911 ; Anglia, xxxvii, 118). Thus amended, this stanza would read: "Of the 
violation of (Beadu)hild many of us have heard. The affections of the Geat 
{i.e., Nithhad) were boundless, so that sorrowing love deprived him of all 
sleep." This grief of Nithhad would be that caused by the killing of his sons 
and the shame brought on his daughter. Thus the first three stanzas of the 
poem would refer to (1) Weland' s torture, (2) Beadohild's shame, and (3) 
Nithhad's grief. 

18. Strophe four refers to Theodoric the Goth (see Widsith, v. 115, and 
^¥aldhere, B, v. 4, note). He was banished to Attila's court for thirty years. 

19. Mcerings: a name applied to the Ostrogoths. 

21. Eormanric was king of the Goths and uncle to Theodoric. He died 
about 375 a.d. He put his only son to death, had his wife torn to pieces, 
and ruined the happiness of many people. For an account of his crimes 
see the notes to Widsithj v. 8. 



28 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

That the cruel king might be conquered at last. 
That has passed over: so this may depart! 

Sad in his soul he sitteth joyless, 
Mournful in mood. He many times thinks 

^0 That no end will e'er come to the cares he endures. 
Then must he think how throughout the world . 
The gracious God often gives his help 
And manifold honors to many an earl 
And sends wide his fame; but to some he gives 
woes. 

35 Of myself and my sorrows I may say in truth 
That I was happy once as the Heodenings' scop, 
Dear to my lord. Deor was my name. 
Many winters I found a worthy following, 
Held my lord's heart, till Heorrenda came, 

40 The skillful singer, and received the land-right 
That the proud h.lm of earls had once promised 
to me! 
That has passed over: so this may depart! 

36. See, for the connection of the Heodenings and the sweet-singing Heor- 
renda. the note to Widsith, v. 21. 



WALDHERE 



[Critical text and translation : Diekins, Runic and Heroic Poems, p, 56. 

Date: Probably eighth century. 

Information as to the story is found in a number of continental sources. 
Its best known treatment is in a Latin poem, Walthariiis, by Ekkehard of 
St. Gall, dating from the first half of the tenth century. Ekkehard 's 
story is thus summarized in the Cambridge History of English Literature : 
' ' Alphere, king of Aquitaine, had a son named Waltharius, and Heriricus, 
king of Burgundy, an oi:ly daughter named Hiltgund, who was betrothed 
to Waltharius. While they were yet children, however, Attila, king of the 
Huns, invaded Gaul, and the kings seeing no hope in resistance, gave 
up their children to him as hostages, together with much treasure. Under 
like compulsion treasure was obtained also from Gibicho, king of the 
Franks, who sent as hostage a youth of noble birth named Hagano. In 
Attila 's service, Waltharius and Hagano won great renown as warriors, 
l)ut the latter eventually made his escape. When Waltharius grew up, 
he became Attila 's chief general; yet he remembered his old engagement 
with Hiltgund. On his return from a victorious campaign he made a 
great feast for the king and his court, and when all were sunk in their 
drunken sleep, he and Hiltgund fled laden with much gold. On their 
way home they had to cross the Ehine near Worms. There the king of 
the Franks, Guntharius, the son of Gibicho, heard from the ferryman 
of the gold they were carrying and determined to secure it. Accom- 
panied by Hagano and eleven other picked warriors, he overtook them 
as they rested in a cave in the Vosges. Waltharius offered him a large 
share of the gold in order to obtain peace; but the king demanded the 
whole, together with Hiltgund and the horses. Stimulated by the prom- 
ise of great rewards, the eleven warriors now attacked Waltharius one 
after another, but he slew them all. Hagano had tried to dissuade 
Guntharius from the attack; but now, since his nephew was among the 
slain, he formed a plan with the king for surprising Waltharius. On 
the following day they both fell upon him after he had quitted his 
stronghold, and, in the struggle that ensued, all three were maimed. 
Waltharius, however, was able to proceed on his way with Hiltgund, and 
the story ends happily with their marriage. ' ' 

Both our fragments, which are found on two leaves in the Eoyal 
Library at Copenhagen, refer to a time immediately before the final 
encounter. The first is spoken by the lady; the second by the man. We 
cannot tell how long this poem may have been. What we have may be 
leaves from a long epic, or a short poem, or an episode in a long epic] 

29 



30 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 



she eagerly heartened him : 

**Lo, the work of Weland shall not weaken or fail 
For the man who the mighty Mimming can wield, 
The frightful brand. Oft in battle have fallen 
^ Sword-wounded warriors one after the other. 
6 Vanguard of Attila, thy valor must ever 

Endure the conflict! The day is now come, 
9 When fate shall award you one or the other: 
10 To lose your life or have lasting glory, 
Through all the ages, ^Ifhere's son! 
No fault do I find, my faithful lover, 
Saying I have seen thee at sword-play weaken. 
Yield like a coward to a conqueror's arms, 
1^ Flee from the field of fight and escape. 

Protect thy body, though bands of the foemen 
Were smiting thy burnies with broad-edged swords ; 
But unf alt 'ring still farther the fight thou pur- 

suedst 
Over the line of battle; hence, my lord, I am bur- 
dened 
20 With fear that too fiercely to the fight thou shalt 
rush 
To the place of encountering thy opponent in con- 
flict. 
To wage on him war. Be worthy of thyself. 

1. The speaker is Hiklegyth (the Old English form for Hiltgund). 

2. Weland: the blacksmith of Teutonic myth. See Dear's Lament, introduc- 
tory note, and notes to vv. 1 and 8. 

3. Mimming was the most famous of the swords made by Weland. 



WALDHEBE 31 

In glorious deeds while thy God protects thee! 
Have no fear as to sword for the fine-gemmed 

weapon 
Has been given thee to aid us : on Guthhere with it 
Thou shalt pay back the wrong of unrighteously 

seeking 
To stir up the struggle and strife of battle; 
He rejected that sword and the jewelled treasure, 
The lustrous gems; now, leaving them all, 
He shall flee from this field to find his lord, 
His ancient land, or lie here forever 
Asleep, if he '' 



B 

^ ^ a better sword 

Except that other, which also I have 

Closely encased in its cover of jewels. 

I know that Theodoric thought that to Widia 

28. Waldhere had offered Guthhere a large share of the treasure as an 
inducement for him to desist from the attack, and Guthhere had refused it. 

1. The opening of the second fragment finds the two champions ready 
for the final struggle. Guthhere is finishing his boast, in which he praises 
his equipment. 

3. The meaning of this passage is obscure, but the translation here given 
seems to be the most reasonable conjecture. He probably refers to a sword 
that he has at hand in a jewelled case ready for use. 

4. Stopping thus to give a history of the weapon calls to mind many 
similar passages in the Homeric poems. The particular story in mind here 
is the escape of Theodoric from the giants. He loses his way and falls 
into the hands of one of the twelve giants who guard Duke Nitger. He gains 
the favor of Nitger's sister, and through her lets his retainers, Hildebrand, 
Witige, and Heime know of his plight. They defeat the giants and release him. 
Witige and Heime are the Middle High German forms for the Old English 
Widia (see Deot-'s Lament, v. 8, note), or Wudga and Hama (see Widsith, 
\Y. 124, 130, note). 



32 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

^ Himself he would send it, and the sword he would 
join 
With large measure of jewels and many other 

brands, 
Worked all with gold. This reward he would send 
Because, when a captive, the kinsman of Nithhad, 
Weland's son, Widia, from his woes had released 
him — 
1^ Thus in haste he escaped from the hands of the 
giants.'^ 
Waldhere spoke, the warrior brave; 
He held in his hand his helper in battle. 
He grasped his weapon, shouting words of defiance : 
'' Indeed, thou hadst faith, friend of the Bur- 
gundians, 
1^ That the hand of Hagena had held me in battle, 
Defeated me on foot. Fetch now, if thou darest, 
From me weary with war my worthy gray corselet ! 
It lies on my shoulder as 'twas left me by ^Ifhere, 
Goodly and gorgeous and gold-bedecked, 
20 The most honorable of all for an atheling to hold 
When he goes into battle to guard his life, 
To fight with his foes : fail me it will never 
When a stranger band shall strive to encounter 

me. 
Besiege me with swords, as thou soughtest to do. 

14. Friend of the Burgundians: a usual Old English expression for "king." 
Guthhere was king of the Burgundians in the middle of the fifth century (see 
Widsith, vv. 19, 66, notes). 

15. Hagena is now the only one of Guthhere's comrades that has not been 
killed by Waldhere. Cf. Widsith, v. 21. 



WALDHEBE 33 

25 He alone will vouchsafe the victory who always 
Is eager and ready to aid every right: 
He who hopes for the help of the holy Lord, 
For the grace of God, shall gain it surely. 
If his earlier work has earned the reward. 

3*^ Well may the brave warriors then their wealth 
enjoy, 
Take pride in their property ! That is . . . ' ' 



THE FIGHT AT FINNSBURG 



[Edition used: Chambers, Beowulf, p. 158. See also Diekins, Bunic 
and Heroic Poems, p. 64. 

Alliterative translation, Gummere, Oldest English Epic, p. 160. 

The manuscript is now lost. We have only an inaccurate version 
printed bj Hickes at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Many 
difficulties are therefore found in the text. For a good discussion of 
the text, see an article by Mackie in The Journal of English and Germanic 
Philology, xvi, 250. 

This fragment belongs to the epic story of Finn which is alluded to 
at some length in Beowulf (vv. 1068-1159). The saga can be recon- 
structed in its broad outlines, though it is impossible to be sure of 
details. One of the most puzzling of these details is the position in 
which the "Fight" occurs. In the story are two fights, either one of 
which may be the one described in the fragment. The weight of opinion 
seems to favor the first conflict, that in which Hnsef is killed. As sum- 
marized by Moller, the Finn story is briefly as follows: 

''Finn, king of the Frisians, had carried off Hildeburh, daughter of 
Hoc {Beowidf, v. 1076), probably with her consent. Her father Hoc 
seems to have pursued the fugitives, and to have been slain in the fight 
which ensued on his overtaking them. After the lapse of some twenty 
years. Hoe's sons Hnsef and Hengest, were old enough to undertake the 
duty of avenging their father 's death. They make an inroad into Finn 's 
country and a battle takes place in which many warriors, among them 
Hnsef and a son of Finn (1074, 1079, 1115), are killed. Peace is there- 
fore solemnly concluded, and the slain warriors are burnt (1068-1124). 

*' As the year is too far advanced for Hengest to return home (1130 ff.), 
he and those of his men who survive remain for the winter in the Frisian 
country with Finn, But Hengest 's thoughts dwell constantly on the 
death of his brother Hneef, and he would gladly welcome any excuse to 
break the peace which had been sworn by both parties. His ill concealed 
desire for revenge is noticed by the Frisians, who anticipate it by them- 
selves taking the initiative and attacking Hengest and his men whilst 
they are sleeping in the hall. This is the night attack described in the 
' ' Fight. ' ' It would seem that after a brave and desperate resistance 
Hengest himself falls in this fight at the hands of Hunlafing (1143), 
but two of his retainers, Guthlaf and Oslaf, succeed in cutting their way 
through their enemies and in escaping to their own land. They return 
with fresh troops, attack and slay Finn, and carry his queen, Hildeburh, 
off with them (1125-1159)."— Wyatt, Beowulf, (1901), p. 145. 

34 



TEE FIGHT AT FINNSBUBG 35 

Professor Gummere finds in the fragment an example bearing out his 
theory of the development of the epic. ' ' The qualities which difference it 
from Beowulf, ' ' he says, * ' are mainly negative ; it lacks sentiment, 
moralizing, the leisure of the writer ; it did not attempt probably to cover 
more than a single event; and one will not err in finding it a fair type 
of the epic songs which roving singers were wont to sing before lord and 
liegeman in hall and which were used with more or less fidelity by makers 
of complete epic poems."] 

^^ Are the gables not burning!'' 

Boldly replied then the battle-young king: 

''The day is not dawning; no dragon is flying, 
And the high gable-horns of the hall are not burning, 
But the brave men are bearing the battle line for- 
ward. 
While bloodthirsty sing the birds of slaughter. 
Now clangs the gray corselet, clashes the war- 
wood, 
Shield answers shaft. Now shineth the moon. 
Through its cover of clouds. Now cruel days press 

us 
That will drive this folk to deadly fight. 
But wake at once, my warriors bold, 
Stand now to your armor and strive for honor; 
Fight at the front unafraid and undaunted." 

Then arose from their rest, ready and valiant. 
Gold-bedecked soldiers, and girded their swords. 
The noble knights went now to the door 

1. The fragment begins in the middle of a word. 

2. The "battle-young king" is probably the Hengest of v. 19. Possibly he 
is to be identified with Hengest, the conqueror of Kent. 

5, 6. In the original these lines seem to be incomplete. The translation 
attempts to keep the intended meaning. 

14, 15. In the original these appear as a single greatly expanded line, 
which was probably at one time two lines. 



36 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

And seized their swords, Sigeferth and Eaiia, 
And to the other door Ordlaf and Guthlaf, 
And Hengest who followed to help the defense. 

20 Now Gu there restrained Garulf from strife, 
Lest fearless at the first of the fight he rush 
To the door and daringly endanger his life, 
Since now it was stormed by so stalwart a hero. 
But unchecked by these words a challenge he shouted, 

25 Boldly demanding what man held the door. 

^ ^ I am Sigf erth, ' ' he said, ^ ' the Secgan 's prince ; 
Wide have I wandered; many woes have I known 
And bitter battles. Be it bad or good 
Thou shalt surely receive what thou seekest from 
me." 

30 At the wall by the door rose the din of battle ; 
In the hands of heroes the hollow bucklers 
Shattered the shields. Shook then the hall floor 
Till there fell in the fight the faithful Garulf, 
Most daring and doughty of the dwellers on earth, 

35 The son of Guthlaf ; and scores fell with him. 
O'er the corpses hovered the hungry raven, 

17. Sigeferth (see also line 26), prince of the Secgans is probably identical 
with Sieferth who ruled the Secgans in Widsith, v, 31. 

18. Ordlaf and Guthlaf appear in the account in Beowulf (vv. 1148, ff.) as 
Oslaf and Guthlaf. They are the avengers of Hnsef. 

20. From the construction it is impossible to tell who is the speaker and 
who is being restrained. But from line 33 it is seen to be Garulf wbo neglects 
the advice and is killed. Garulf and Guthere are, of course, of the attacking 
band. 

26. Sigf erth, one of the defenders. See v. 17, above. 

28, 29. These lines are obscure. Probably they mean that Garulf may 
have as good as he sends in the way of a fight. 

35. Guthlaf, the father of Garulf (the assailant) was probably not the 
Guthalf of line 18, who was a defender. If we have here a conflict between 
father and son, very little is made of it. 



TEE FIGET AT FINNSBUEG 37 

Swarthy and sallow-brown. A sword-gleam blazed 

As though all Finnsburg in flames were burning. 

Never heard I of heroes more hardy in war, 

^^ Of sixty who strove more strongly or bravely, 
Of swains who repaid their sweet mead better 
Than his loyal liegemen to their loved Hnsef. 
Five days they fought, but there fell not a one 
Of the daring band, though the doors they held 
always. 

45 Now went from the warfare a wounded chief. 
He said that his burnie was broken asunder. 
His precious war-gear, and pierced was his helmet. 
Then questioned their chief and inquired of him 
How the warriors recovered from the wounds they 

received. 
Or which of the youths 

45. It is impossible to tell who the wounded wari-ior was or which chief is 
referred to in line 48. 



50 



2. GNOMIC GROUP 

CHAEMS 

[Edition used: Kluge, AngelsdcJisisches Lesebuch. 

Critical edition and discussion of most of the charms: Felix Grendon, 
Journal of American Folk-lore, xxii, 105 ff. See that article for bibli- 
ography. 

Grendon divides the charms into five classes: 

1. Exorcisms of diseases and disease spirits. 

2. Herbal charms, 

3. Charms for transferring disease. 

4. Amulet charms. 

5. Charm remedies. 

These charms contain some of the most interesting relics of the old 
heathen religion of the Anglo-Saxons incongruously mingled with Chris- 
tian practices. They were probably written down at so late a time that 
the churchmen felt they could no longer do harm.] 

I. For Bewitched Laxd 

Here is the remedy by ivhich thou mayst improve 
thy fields if they will not produce well or if any evil 
thing is done to them by means of sorcery or witch- 
craft: 
^ Take at night, before daybreak, four pieces of turf 
from the four corners of the land and mark the places 
■ where they have stood. Take then oil and honey and 
yeast and the milk of every kind of cattle that is on 
that land and a piece of every kind of tree that is groivn 
1^ on that land, except hard wood, and a piece of every 
kind of herb known by name, except burdock alone. 
Then put holy water on these and dip it thrice in the 

38 



CEAEMS 39 

base of the turfs and say these words: Crescite, grow, 
et multiplicamiiii, and multiply , et replete, and fill, ter- 

1^ ram, this earth, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus 
Sancti sint benedicti ; and Pater Noster as often as any- 
thing else. 

Then carry the turfs to the church and have the priest 
sing four masses over them and have the green sides 

20 turned toward the altar. Then bring them bach before 
sunset to the place tvhere they tvere at first. Now mahe 
four crosses of aspen and write on the end of each 
Matheus and Marcus and Lucas and Johannes. Lay 
the crosses on the bottom of each hole and then say: 

2^ Crux Matheus, crux Marcus, crux Lucas, crux Sanctus 
Johannes. Then take the sods and lay them on top and 
say nine times the word Crescite, and the Pater Noster 
as often. Turn then to the east and bow humbly nine 
times and say these tvords: 

^0 Eastward I stand, for honors I pray; 

I pray to the God of glory ; I pray to the gracious 

Lord ; 
I pray to the high and holy Heavenly Father; 
I pray to the earth and all of the heavens. 
And to the true and virtuous virgin Saint Mary, 

3S And to the high hall of Heaven and its power, 
That with God's blessing I may unbind this spell 
With my open teeth, and through trusty thought 
May awaken the growth for our worldly advantage, 
May fill these fields by fast belief, 

30. Irregularities in the meter in the translations are imitations of similar 
irregularities in the original. 



40 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

40 May improve this planting, for the prophet saith 
That he hath honors on earth whose alms are free, 
Who wisely gives, by the will of God. 

Then turn th^^ee times following the course of the 
sun, stretch thyself prostrate, and chant the litanies. 

45 Then say Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus through to the 
end. Then chant Benedicte with outstretched arms, 
and the Magnificat and Pater Noster three times and 
commend thy prayer to the praise and glory of Christ 
and Saint Mary and the Holy Rood, and to the honor 

50 of him who owns the land and to all those that are sub- 
ject to him. When all this is done, get some unknown 
seed from beggars, and give them twice as much as 
thou takest from them. Then gather all thy plowing 
gear together and bore a hole in the beam and put in 

^5 it incense and fennel and consecrated soap and conse- 
crated salt. Take the seed and put it on the body of 
the plow, and then say: 
Erce, Erce, Erce, of earth the mother. 
May he graciously grant thee, God Eternal, 

60 To have fertile fields and fruitful harvests, 
Growing in profit and gaining in power; 
A host of products and harvests in plenty, 
Bright with the broad barley harvest; 
And heavy with the white harvest of wheat, 

65 And all the harvest of the earth. May the Almighty 
Lord grant 
And all his saints who are seated in heaven, 

58. Erce: probably the name of an old Teutonic deity, the Mother of Earth 
This reference is all we have to preserve the name. 



CHABMS 41 

That against all of the enemies this earth may be 

guarded, 
Protected and made proof against the powers of 

evil, 
Against sorceries and spells dispersed through the 
land. 
70 Now I pray to the Power who planned the creation 
That no woman of witchcraft, no worker of magic. 
May change or unspell the charm I have spoken. 

Then drive forth the plow and turn the first furrow 
and say: 
75 Hail to thee. Earth, of all men the mother, 
Be goodly thy growth in God's embrace. 
Filled with food as a favor to men. 

Then take meal of every hind and hake a loaf as 
broad as it will lie between the two hands, kneading 
80 it with milk and tvith holy water, and lay it under the 
first furrow. Say then: 
Full be the field with food for mankind. 
Blossoming brightly. Blessed by thou 
By the holy name of Heaven's Creator, 
85 And the maker of Earth, which men inhabit. 

May God who created the ground grant us growing 

gifts, 
That each kernel of corn may come to use. 

Say then three times, Crescite in nomine patris, sint 
benedicti. Amen and Pater Noster three times. 

75. The conception of a goddess as Mother of Earth and of Earth as 
Mother of Men is entirely pagan. This charm is a peculiar complex of Chris- 
tian and pagan ideas. 



42 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

II. Against a Sudden Stitch 

Against a sudden stitch take feverfew, and the red 

nettle that grows through the house, and plantain. Boil 

in butter. 

Loud were they, lo loud, as over the lea they rode ; 
^ Resolute they were when they rode over the land. 

Protect thyself that thy trouble become cured and 
healed. 

Out, little stick, if it still is 

I stood under the linden, under the light shield, 

Where the mighty women their magic prepared, 
10 And they sent their spears spinning and whistling. 

But I will send them a spear in return, 

Unerringly aim an arrow against them. 

Out, little stick, if it still is within ! 

There sat a smith and a small knife forged 
1^ sharply with a stroke of iron. 

Out little stick if it still is within ! 

Six smiths sat and worked their war-spears. 

Out, spear ! be not in, spear ! 

If it still is there, the stick of iron, 
20 The work of the witches, away it shall melt. 

If thou wert shot in the skin, or sore wounded in the 
flesh. 

If in the blood thou wert shot, or in the bone thou 
wert shot, 

1. The sudden stitch in the side (or rheumatic pain) is here thought of 
as coming from the arrows shot by the "mighty women" — the witches. 
21-28. These irregular lines are imitated from the original. 



CHABM8 43 

If in the joint thou wert shot, there will be no jeop- 
ardy to your life. 

If some deity shot it, or some devil shot it, 
25 Or if some witch has shot it, now I am willing to 
help thee. 

This is a remedy for a deity 's shot ; this is a remedy 
for a devil 's shot ; 

This is a remedy for a witch 's shot. I am willing to 
help thee. 

Flee there into the forests 

Be thou wholly healed. Thy help be from God. 
30 Then take the knife mid put it into the liquid. 



EIDDLES 

[Critical editions: Wyatt, Tuppcr, and Trautmann. Wyatt (Boston, 
1912, Belles Lettres edition) used as a basis for these translations. His 
numbering is always one lower than the other editions, since he rejects 
one riddle. 

Date : Probably eighth century for most of them. 

For translations of other riddles than those here given see Brooke, 
English Literature from the Beginning to the Norman Conquest, Pan- 
coast and Spaeth, Early English Poems, and Cook and Tinker, Selections 
from Old English Poetry. 

There is no proof as to the authorship. There were probably one 
hundred of them in the original collection though only about ninety are 
left. Many of them are translations from the Latin. Some are true 
folk-riddles and some are learned. 

In the riddles we find particulars of Anglo-Saxon life that we. cannot 
find elsewhere. The Cambridge History of English Literature sums their 
effect up in the following sentence : ' ' Furthermore, the author or authors 
of the Old English riddles borrow themes from native folk-songs and 
saga; in their hands inanimate objects become endowed with life and 
personality; the powers of nature become objects of worship such as they 
were in olden times; they describe the scenery of their own country, the 
fen, the river, and the sea, the horror of the untrodden forest, sun and 
moon engaged in perpetual pursuit of each other, the nightingale and the 
swan, the plow guided by the ^gray-haired enemy of the wood,' the bull 
breaking up clods left unturned by the plow, the falcon, the arm-com- 
panion of gethelings — scenes, events, characters familiar in the England 
of that day."] 

I. A Stokm 

What man is so clever, so crafty of mind, 

As to say for a truth who sends me a-traveling? 

"When I rise in my wratli, raging at times, 

Savage is my sound. Sometimes I travel, 

Go forth among the folk, set fire to their homes 

1. Some scholars feel that the first three riddles, all of which describe 
storms, are in reality one, with three divisions. There is little to indicate 
whether the scribe thought of them as separate or not. 

44 



MIDDLES 45 

And ravage and rob them; tlien rolls the smoke 

Gray over the gables ; great is the noise, 

The death-struggle of the stricken. Then I stir up 

the woods 
And the fruitful forests ; I fell the trees, 

10 I, roofed over with rain, on my reckless journey, 
Wandering widely at the will of heaven. 
I bear on my back the bodily raiment. 
The fortunes of folk, their flesh and their spirits, 
Together to sea. Say who may cover me, 

1^ Or what I am called, who carry this burden I 

II. A Storm 

At times I travel in tracks undreamed of. 
In vasty wave-depths to visit the earth, 
The floor of the ocean. Fierce is the sea 
the foam rolls high ; 

^ The whale-pool roars and rages loudly; 

The streams beat the shores, and they sling at times 
Great stones and sand on the steep cliffs, 
"With weeds and waves, while wildly striving 
Under the burden of billows on the bottom of ocean 

10 The sea-ground I shake. My shield of waters * 
I leave not ere he lets me who leads me always 
In all my travels. Tell me, wise man. 
Who was it that drew me from the depth of the 

ocean 
When the streams again became still and quiet, 

1^ Who before had forced me in fury to rage! 



46 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 



III. A Stokm 



At times I am fast confined by my Master, 
Who sendeth forth under the fertile plain 
My broad bosom, but bridles me in. 
He drives in the dark a dangerous power 
^ To a narrow cave, where crushing my back 
Sits the weight of the world. No way of escape 
Can I find from the torment ; so I tumble about 
The homes of heroes. The halls with their gables, 
The tribe-dwellings tremble ; the trusty walls shake, 

1^ Steep over the head. Still seems the air 
Over all the country and calm the waters, 
Till I press in my fury from my prison below, 
Obeying His bidding who bound me fast 
In fetters at first w^hen he fashioned the world, 

1^ In bonds and in chains, with no chance of escape 
From his power who points out the paths I must 
follow. 
Downward at times I drive the waves, 
Stir up the streams ; to the strand I press 
The flint-gray flood : the foamy wave 

20 Lashes the wall. A lurid mountain 
Rises on the deep ; dark in its trail 
Stirred up with the sea a second one comes. 
And close to the coast it clashes and strikes 
On the lofty hills. Loud soundeth the boat, 

25 The shouting of shipmen. Unshaken abide 

The stone cliffs steep through the strife of the 
waters, 



30 



RIDDLES 47 

The dashing of waves, when the deadly tumult 
Crowds to the coast. Of cruel strife 
The sailors are certain if the sea drive their craft 
With its terrified guests on the grim rolling tide ; 
They are sure that the ship will be shorn of its 

power, 
Be deprived of its rule, and will ride foam-covered 
On the ridge of the waves. Then ariseth a panic. 
Fear among folk of the force that commands me. 
Strong on my storm-track. Who shall still that 

power f 
At times I drive through the dark wave-vessels 
That ride on my back, and wrench them asunder 
And lash them with sea-streams ; or I let them again 
Glide back together. It is the greatest of noises. 
Of clamoring crowds, of crashes the loudest. 
When clouds as they strive in their courses shall 

strike 
Edge against edge; inky of hue 
In flight 'er the folk bright fire they sweat, 
A stream of flame ; destruction they carry 
Dark over men with a mighty din. 
Fighting they fare. They let fall from their bosom 
A deafening rain of rattling liquid. 
Of storm from their bellies. In battle they strive, 
The awful army; anguish arises. 
Terror of mind to the tribes of men. 
Distress in the strongholds, when the stalking gob- 
lins. 
The pale ghosts shoot with their sharp Aveapons. 



48 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

The fool alone fears not tlieir fatal spears ; 
But lie perishes too if the true God send 

^^ Straight from above in streams of rain, 

Whizzing and whistling the whirlwind's arrows, 
The flying death. Few shall survive 
Whom that violent guest in his grimness shall visit. 
I always stir up that strife and commotion ; 

^0 Then I bear my course to the battle of clouds, 
Powerfully strive and press through the tumult. 
Over the bosom of the billows ; bursteth loudly 
The gathering of elements. Then again I descend 
In my helmet of air and hover near the land, 

65 And lift on my back the load I must bear, 
Minding the mandates of the mighty Lord. 
So I, a tried servant, sometimes contend : 
Now under the earth ; now from over the waves 
I drive to the depths ; now dropping from heaven, 

70 I stir up the streams, or strive to the skies. 
Where I war with the welkin. Wide do I travel. 
Swift and noisily. Say now my name. 
Or who raises me up when rest is denied me. 
Or who stays my course when stillness comes to me ? 

V. A Shield 

A lonely warrior, I am wounded with iron. 
Scarred with sword-points, sated with battle-play, 
Weary of weapons. I have witnessed much fighting. 
Much stubborn strife. From the strokes of war 
^ I have no hope for help or release 



RIDDLES 49 

Ere I pass from the world with the proud warrior 

band. 
With brands and billies they beat upon me ; 
The hard edges hack me ; the handwork of smiths 
In crowds I encounter ; with courage I endure 
^0 Ever bitterer battles. No balm may I find, 

And no doctor to heal me in the whole field of battle, 
To bind me with ointments and bring me to health, 
But my grievous gashes grow ever sorer 
Through death-dealing strokes by day and night. 

VII. A SwAiT 

My robe is noiseless when I roam the earth, 
Or stay in my home, or stir up the water. 
At times I am lifted o'er the lodgings of men 
By the aid of my trappings and the air above. 
^ The strength of the clouds then carries me far. 
Bears me on its bosom. My beautiful ornament. 
My raiment rustles and raises a song, 
Sings without tiring. I touch not the earth 
But wander a stranger over stream and wood. 

VIII. A Nightingale 

With my mouth I am master of many a language ; 
Cunningly I carol ; I discourse full oft 
In melodious lays ; loud do I call, 
Ever mindful of melody, undiminished in voice. 
^ An old evening-scop, to earls I bring 
Solace in cities ; when, skillful in music. 



50 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

My voice I raise, restful at home 
They sit in silence. Say what is my name, 
That call so clearly and cleverly imitate 
10 The song of the scop, and sing unto men 

Words full welcome with my wonderful voice. 



XIV. A Horn 

I was once an armed warrior. Now the worthy youth 
Gorgeously gears me with gold and silver. 
Curiously twisted. At times men kiss me. 
Sometimes I sound and summon to battle 

^ The stalwart company. A steed now carries me 
Across the border. The courser of the sea 
Now bears me o'er the billows, bright in my trap- 
pings. 
Now a comely maiden covered with jewels 
Fills my bosom with beer. On the board now I lie 

10 Lidless and lonely and lacking my trappings. 
Now fair in my fretwork at the feast I hang 
In my place on the wall while warriors drink. 
Now brightened for battle, on the back of a steed 
A war-chief shall bear me. Then the wind I shall 
breathe, 

1^ Shall swell with sound from someone 's bosom. 
At times with my voice I invite the heroes, 
The warriors to wine ; or I watch for my master 
And sound an alarm and save his goods, 
Put the robber to flight. Now find out my name. 

8, Cosijn's reading has been adopted for the first half line. 



BIDDLES 51 

XV. A Badger 

My throat is like snow, and my sides and my head 
Are a swarthy brown ; I am swift in flight. 
Battle-weapons I bear ; on my back stand hairs, 
And also on my cheeks. 'er my eyes on high 
5 Two ears tower ; with my toes I step 
On the green grass. Grief comes upon me 
If the slaughter-grim hunter shall see me in hiding, 
Shall find me alone where I fashion my dwelling. 
Bold with my brood. I abide in this place 

10 With my strong young children till a stranger shall 
come 
And bring dread to my door. Death then is certain. 
Hence, trembling I carry my terrified children 
Far from their home and flee unto safety. 
If he crowds me close as he comes behind, 

1^ I bare my breast. In my burrow I dare not 
Meet my furious foe (it were foolish to do so), 
But, wildly rushing, I work a road 
Through the high hill with my hands and feet. 
I fail not in defending my family's lives; 

20 If I lead the little ones below to safety. 
Through a secret hole inside the hill. 
My beloved brood, no longer need I 
Fear the offense of the fierce-battling dogs. 

25 Whenever the hostile one hunts on my trail, 
Follows me close, he will fail not of conflict. 
Of a warm encounter, when he comes on my war^ 
path. 



52 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

If I reach, in my rage, through the roof of my hill 
And deal my deadly darts of battle 
30 On the foe I have feared and fled from long. 

XXIII. A Bow 

My name is spelled AGOB with the order reversed. 
I am marvelously fashioned and made for fighting. 
When I am bent and my bosom sends forth 
Its poisoned stings, I straightway prepare 
^ My deadly darts to deal afar. 

As soon as my master, who made me for torment. 
Loosens my limbs, my length is increased 
Till I vomit the venom with violent motions, 
The swift-killing poison I swallowed before. 

10 Not any man shall make his escape. 

Not one that I spoke of shall speed from the fight, 
If there falls on him first what flies from my belly. 
He pays with his strength for the poisonous drink, 
For the fatal cup which forfeits his life. 

1^ Except when fettered fast, I am useless. 
Unbound I shall fail. Now find out my name. 

XXVI. A Bible 

A stern destroyer struck out my life. 
Deprived me of power ; he put me to soak, 

29. The "deadly darts of battle" have caused "porcupine" to be proposed 
as a solution to this riddle, though when all the details are considered 
"badger" seems on the whole the more reasonable. 

1. Here, of course, a "codex," or manuscript of a Bible is in tne writer's 
mind. He describes first the killing of the animal and the preparation of the 



BIDDLES 53 

Dipped me in water, dried me again, 

And set me in the sun, where I straightway lost 

The hairs that I had. Then the hard edge 

Of the keen knife cut me and cleansed me of soil ; 

Then fingers folded me. The fleet quill of the bird 

With speedy drops spread tracks often 

Over the brown surface, swallowed the tree-dye, 

A deal of the stream, stepped again on me. 

Traveled a black track. With protecting boards 

Then a crafty one covered me, enclosed me with 

hide. 
Made me gorgeous with gold. Hence I am glad and 

rejoice 
At the smith's fair work with its wondrous adorn- 
ments. 
NoAv may these rich trappings, and the red dye's 
tracings. 
And all works of wisdom spread wide the fame 
Of the Sovereign of nations! Read me not as a 

penance ! 
If the children of men will cherish and use me, 
They shall be safer and sounder and surer of vic- 
tory, 
More heroic of heart and happier in spirit. 
More unfailing in wisdom. More friends shall they 

have. 
Dear and trusty, and true and good, 
And faithful always, whose honors and riches 

skin for writing. Then the writing and binding of the book is described. 
Last of all, the writer considers the use the book will be to men. 



54 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Shall increase with their love, and who cover their 
friends 
25 With kindness and favors and clasp them fast 
With loving arms. I ask how men call me 
Who aid them in need. My name is far famed. 
I am helpful to men, and am holy myself. 

XLV. Dough 

In a corner I heard a curious weak thing 
Swelling and sounding and stirring its cover. 
On that boneless body a beautiful woman 
Laid hold with her hands; the high-swelled thing 
She covered with a cloth, the clever lord 's daughter. 

XL VII. A BOOKWOKM 

A moth ate a word. To me that seemed 
A curious happening when I heard of that wonder. 
That a worm should swallow the word of a man, 
A thief in the dark eat a thoughtful discourse 
5 And the strong base it stood on. He stole, but he was 
not 
A whit the wiser when the word had been swallowed. 

LX. A Eeed 

I stood on the strand to the sea-cliffs near, 
Hard by the billows. To the home of my birth 
Fast was I fixed. Few indeed are there 

1. This riddle occurs in the manuscript just before The Husband's Mes- 
sage, and some editors think that in the riddle we have a proper beginning 



EIDDLES 55 

Of men who have ever at any time 

Beheld my home in the hard waste-land. 

In the brown embrace of the billows and waves 

I was locked each dawn. Little I dreamed 

That early or late I ever should 

With men at the mead-feast mouthless speak forth 

Words of wisdom. It is a wondrous thing, 

And strange to the sight when one sees it first 

That the edge of a knife and the active hand 

And wit of the earl who wields the blade 

Should bring it about that I bear unto thee 

A secret message, meant for thee only, 

Boldly announce it, so that no other man 

May speak our secrets or spread them abroad. 

for the poem. First is the account of the growth of the reed, or block of 
wood, then the account of its voyages, and last the message conveyed. There 
is really no way of telling whether the poems were meant to go together. 



EXETEK GNOMES 

[Critical edition: Blanche Colton Williams, Gnomic Poetry in Anglo- 
Saxon, New York, 1914. 

There are two sets of gnomes or proverbs in Old English. The Exeter 
collection, from which these are taken, consists of three groups. The 
second group, which contains the justly popular lines about the Frisian 
wife, is typical of the whole set.] 

Group II 

All frost shall freeze, fire consume wood, 
Earth grow its fruits. Ice shall bridge water, 
Which shall carry its cover and cunningly lock 

75 The herbs of earth. One only shall loose 
The fetter of frost, the Father Almighty. 
Winter shall away, the weather be fair. 
The sun hot in summer. The sea shall be restless. 
The deep way of death is the darkest of secrets. 

80 Holly flames on the fire. Afar shall be scattered 
The goods of a dead man. Glory is best. 

A king shall with cups secure his queen. 
Buy her with bracelets. Both shall at first 
Be generous with gifts. Then shall grow in the man 

85 The pride of war, and his wife shall prosper, 
Cherished by the folk ; cheerful of mood, 
She shall keep all counsel and in kindness of heart 
Give horses and treasure ; before the train of heroes 
With full measure of mead on many occasions 

56 



EXETEB GNOMES ■ 57 

^0 She shall lovingly greet ; her gracious lord, 
Shall hold the cup high and hand him to drink 
Like a worthy wife. Wisely shall counsel 
The two who hold their home together. 

The ship shall be nailed, the shield be bound, 
••^ The light linden-wood. 

When he lands in the haven. 
To the Frisian wife is the welcome one dear : 
The boat is at hand and her bread-winner home. 
Her own provider. She invites him in 
And washes his sea-stained garments and gives him 
new ones to wear : 
^^ It is pleasant on land when the loved one awaits you. 
Woman shall be wedded to man, and her wicked- 
ness oft shall disgrace him ; 
Some are firm in their faith, some forward and 

curious 
And shall love a stranger while their lord is afar. 
A sailor is long on his course, but his loved one 
awaits his coming, 
'^^ Abides what can not be controlled, for the time will 
come at last 
For his home return, if his health permit, and the 

heaving waters 
High over his head do not hold him imprisoned. 



THE FATES OF MEN 

[Text: Grein-Wiilcker, BibliotheTc der Angelsdchischen Poesie, in, 148. 
The poem is typical of a large group of Old English poems which give 
well-known sayings or proverbs. Other poems of this group are The 
Gifts of Men, The Wonders of Creation, A Father's Instructions to His 
Swi, and the like.] 

Full often through the grace of God it happens 
That man and wife to the world bring forth 
A babe by birth ; they brightly adorn it, 
And tend it and teach it till the time comes on 

^ With the passing of years when the young child ^s 
limbs 
Have grown in strength and sturdy grace. 
It is fondled and fed by father and mother 
And gladdened with gifts. God alone knows 
What fate shall be his in the fast-moving years. 

10 To one it chances in his childhood days 
To be snatched away by sudden death 
In woeful wise. The wolf shall devour him^ 
The hoary heath-dweller. Heart-sick with grief, 
His mother shall mourn him ; but man cannot change 
it. 

1^ One of hunger shall starve; one the storm shall 
drown. 
One the spear shall pierce ; one shall perish in war. 
One shall lead his life without light in his eyes, 

58 



TEE FATES OF MEN 59 

Shall feel his way fearing. Infirm in his step, 
One his wounds shall bewail, his woeful pains — 

20 Mournful in mind shall lament his fate. 
One from the top of a tree in the woods 
Without feathers shall fall, but he flies none the less, 
Swoops in descent till he seems no longer 
The forest tree 's fruit : at its foot on the ground 

25 He sinks in silence, his soul departed — 
On the roots now lies his lifeless body. 

One shall fare afoot on far-away paths. 
Shall bear on his back his burdensome load. 
Tread the dewy track among tribes unfriendly 

30 Amid foreign foemen. Few are alive 

To welcome the wanderer. The woeful face 
Of the hapless outcast is hateful to men. 

One shall end life on the lofty gallows; 
Dead shall he hang till the house of his soul, 

2^ His bloody body is broken and mangled : 

His eyes shall be plucked by the plundering raven. 
The sallow-hued spoiler, while soulless he lies. 
And helpless to fight with his hands in defense 
Against the grim thief. Gone is his life. 

40 With his skin plucked off and his soul departed, 
TJie body all bleached shall abide its fate ; 
The death-mist shall drown him — doomed to dis- 
grace. 
The body of one shall burn on the fire ; 
The flame shall feed on the fated man, 

45 And death shall descend full sudden upon him 
In the lurid glow. Loud weeps the mother 



60 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

As her b©y in the brands is burned to ashes. 

One the sword shall slay as he sits in the mead- 
hall 
Angry with ale ; it shall end his life, 
50 Wine-sated warrior : his words were too reckless ! 
One shall meet his death through the drinking of 

beer, 
Maddened with mead, when no measure he sets 
To the words of his mouth through wisdom of mind ; 
He shall lose his life in loathsome wise, 
^^ Shall shamefully suffer, shut off from joy. 

And men shall know him by the name of self-slayer. 
Shall deplore with their mouths the mead-drinker's 
fall. 
One his hardships of youth through the help of 
God 
Overcomes and brings his burdens to naught, 
60 And his age when it comes shall be crowned with joy ; 
He shall prosper in pleasure, in plenty and wealth, 
With flourishing family and flowing mead — 
For such worthy rewards may one well wish to live ! 
Thus many the fortunes the mighty Lord 
6^ All over the earth to everyone grants, 
^ Dispenses powers as his pleasure shall lead him. 
One is favored with fortune ; one failure in life ; 
One pleasure in youth ; one prowess in war. 
The sternest of strife ; one in striking and shooting 
70 Earns his honors. And often in games 

One is crafty and cunning. A clerk shall one be, 
Weighted with wisdom. Wonderful skill 



THE FATES OF MEN 61 

# 

Is one granted to gain in the goldsmith's art ; 
Full often he decks and adorns in glory 

75 ^ great king 's noble, who gives him rewards, 
Grants him broad lands, which he gladly receives. 
One shall give pleasure to people assembled 
On the benches at beer, shall bring to them mirth, 
Where drinkers are draining their draughts of joy. 

^^ One holding his harp in his hands, at the feet 
Of his lord shall sit and receive a reward; 
Fast shall his fingers fly o 'er the strings ; 
Daringly dancing and darting across. 
With his nails he shall pluck them. His need is great. 

85 One shall make tame the towering falcon. 
The hawk on his hand, till the haughty bird 
Grows quiet and gentle ; jesses he makes him, 
Feeds in fetters the feather-proud hawk. 
The daring air-treader with daintiest morsels, 

90 Till the falcon performs the feeder 's will : 
Hooded and belled, he obeys his master. 
Tamed and trained as his teacher desires. 

"^ Thus in wondrous wise the Warden of Glory 
Through every land has allotted to men 

95 Cunning and craft ; his decrees go forth 
To all men on earth of every race. 
For the graces granted let us give him thanks — 
For his manifold mercies to the men of earth. 



3. ELEGIAC GROUP 

THE WANDEEEE 

[Test used: Kluge, Angelsiiclmsches Lesehuch. It is also given in 
Blight's Anglo-Saxon Eeader. 

Alliterative translations: Edward Fulton, Fuhlications of the Modern 
Language Association of America, vol. xii (1898); Pancoast and Spaeth, 
Early English Poems, p. 65. 

Lines 77 ff. and 101 ff. have been compared to a passage in Keats 's 
Hyperion (book ii, 34-38).] 

Often the lonely one longs for honors, 
The grace of God, though, grieved in his soul, 
Over the waste of the waters far and wide he shall 
Eow with his hands through the rime-cold sea, 

^ Travel the exile tracks : full determined is fate ! 
So the wanderer spake, his woes remembering, 
His misfortunes in fighting and the fall of his kins- 
men: 
* ^ Often alone at early dawn 
I make my moan ! Not a man now lives 

10 To whom I can speak forth my heart and soul 
And tell of its trials. In truth I know well 
That there belongs to a lord an illustrious trait, 
To fetter his feelings fast in his breast, 

1. These opening lines are typical of the group of poems usually known as 
the "Elegies" — this and the next four poems in the book. It is probable that 
the poems of this group have no relation with one another save in general 
tone — la deep melancholy that, though present in the other Old English poems 
is blackest in these. 

62 



TRE WANDEBEB g3 

To keep his own counsel though cares oppress him. 
1^ The weary in heart against Wyrd has no help 

Nor may the troubled in thought attempt to get aid. 
Therefore the thane who is thinking of glory 
Binds in his breast his bitterest thoughts. 
So I fasten with fetters, confine in my breast 
20 My sorrows of soul, though sick oft at heart, 
In a foreign country far from my kinsmen. 
I long ago laid my loyal patron 
In sorrow under the sod ; since then I have gone 

Weary with winter-care over the wave's foamy 
track, 
25 In sadness have sought a solace to find 

In the home and the hall of a host and ring-giver, 
Who, mindful of mercy in the mead-hall free. 
In kindness would comfort and care for me friend- 
less. 
Would treat me with tenderness. The tried man 
knows 
30 How stern is sorrow, how distressing a comrade 
For him who has few of friends and loved ones : 
He trails the track of the exile ; no treasure he has. 
But heart-chilling frost — no fame upon earth. 
He recalls his comrades and the costly hall-gifts 
35 Of his gracious gold-friend, which he gave him in 
youth 
To expend as he pleased : his pleasure has vanished ! 
He who lacks for long his lord's advice, 

15. Wyrd: the "Fate" of the Germanic peoples. The Anglo-Saxon's life was 
overshadowed by the power of Wyrd, though Beowulf says that "a man may 
escape his Wyrd — if he be good enough." 



64 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

His love and his wisdom, learns full well 
How sorrow and slumber soothe together 

^^ The way-worn wanderer to welcome peace. 
He seems in his sleep to see his lord; 
He kisses and clasps him, and inclines on his knee 
His hands and his head as in happier days 
When he experienced the pleasure of his prince's 
favors. 

45 From his sleep then awakens the sorrowful wan- 
derer ; 
He sees full before him the fallow waves. 
The sea-birds bathing and beating their wings, 
Frost and snow falling with freezing hail. 
Then heavier grows the grief of his heart, 

5^ Sad after his dream ; he sorrows anew. 
His kinsmen's memory he calls to his mind. 
And eagerly greets it ; in gladness he sees 
His valiant comrades. Then they vanish away. 
In the soul of a sailor no songs burst forth, 

55 No familiar refrains. Fresh is his care 
Who sends his soul o 'er the sea full oft. 
Over the welling waves his wearied heart. 

Hence I may not marvel, when I am mindful of 
life. 
That my sorrowing soul grows sick and dark, 

60 When I look at the lives of lords and earls, 

How they are suddenly snatched from the seats of 

their power. 
In their princely pride. So passes this world. 
And droops and dies each day and hour ; 



TBE WANDEBEB 65 

And no man is sage who knows not his share 

^^ Of winter in the world. The wise man is patient, 
Not too liot in his heart, nor too hasty in words. 
Nor too weak in war, nor unwise in his rashness, 
Nor too forward nor fain, nor fearful of death. 
Nor too eager and arrogant till he equal his boast- 
ing. 

70 The wise man will wait with his words of boasting 
Till, restraining his thoughts, he thoroughly knows 
Where his vain words of vaunting eventually will 

lead him. 
The sage man perceives how sorrowful it is 
When all the wealth of the world lies wasted and 
scattered. 

7^ So now over the earth in every land 

Stormed on by winds the walls are standing 
Eimy with hoar-frost, and the roofs of the houses ; 
The wine-halls are wasted ; far away are the rulers, 
Deprived of their pleasure. All the proud ones have 
fallen, 

80 The warriors by the wall : some war has borne off, 
In its bloody embrace ; some birds have carried 
Over the high seas ; to some the hoar wolf 
Has dealt their death ; some with dreary faces 
By earls have been exiled in earth-caves to dwell : 

s^ So has wasted this world through the wisdom of 
God, 
Till the proud one's pleasure has perished utterly, 
And the old work of the giants stands worthless and 
joyless. 

87. Ancient fortifications and cities are often referred to in Anglo-Saxon 
poetry as "the old work of the giants." 



66 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

He who the waste of this wall-stead wisely con- 
siders, 
And looks down deep at the darkness of life, 
^0 Mournful in mind, remembers of old 

Much struggle and spoil and speaks these words : 
* Where are the horses! Where are the heroes! 
Where are the high treasure-givers ! 
Where are the proud pleasure-seekers! Where are 

the palace and its joys! 
Alas the bright wine-cup ! Alas the burnie-warriors ! 
^^ Alas the prince 's pride ! How passes the time 
Under the shadow of night as it never had been ! 
Over the trusty troop now towers full high 
A wall adorned with wondrous dragons. 
The strength of the spear has destroyed the earls, 
100 War-greedy weapons, Wyrd inexorable ; 

And the storms strike down on the stony cliffs ; 
The snows descend and seize all the earth 
In the dread of winter ; then darkness comes 
And dusky night-shade. Down from the north 
105 The hated hail-storms beat on heroes with fury. 
All on earth is irksome to man ; 
Oft changes the work of the fates, the world under 

the firmament. 
Here treasure is fleeting ; here true friends are fleet- 
ing; 
Here comrades are fleeting; here kinsmen are fleet- 
ing. 
110 All idle and empty the earth has become.' 

So says the sage one in mind, as he sits and 
secretly ponders. 



TEE TVANDEBEB 67 

Good is the man who is true to his trust; never 
should he betray anger, 

Divulge the rage of his heart till the remedy he 
knows 

That quickly will quiet his spirit. The quest of honor 
is a noble pursuit ; 
1^^ Glory be to God on high, who grants us our salva- 
tion!'' 



THE SEATARER 



[Edition used: Kluge, Angelsdclisisclies Lesehuch. 

Up to line 65 this is one of the finest specimens of Anglo-Saxon poetry. 
It expresses as few poems in English have done the spirit of adven- 
ture, the wanderlust of springtime. The author was a remarkable painter 
of the sea and its conditions. From line 65 to the end the poem consists 
of a very tedious homily that must surely be a later addition. 

The use of the first person throughout and the opposing sentiments 
expressed have caused several scholars to consider the first part of the 
poem a dialogue between a young man eager to go to sea and an old 
sailor. The divisions of the speeches suggested have been as follows: 



(By Honncher) 


(By Kluge) 


(By Eieger) 


l-33a Sailor 


1-33 Sailor 


l-38a Sailor 


33b-38 Youth 


34-64 or 66 Youth 


33b-38 Youth 


39-43 Sailor 




39-47 Sailor 


44-52 Youth 




48-52 Youth 


53-57 Sailor 




53-57 Sailor 


58-64a Youth 




58-71 Youth 
71-end Sailor 



Sweet, in his Anglo-Saxon Reader, objects to these theories since there 
are not only no headings or divisions in the manuscript to indicate such 
divisions, but there are no breaks or contrasts in the poem itself. 

'*If we discard these theories," he says, *'the simplest view of the 
poem is that it is the monologue of an old sailor who first describes the 
hardships of the seafaring life, and then confesses its irresistible attrac- 
tion, which he justifies, as it were, by drawing a parallel between the 
seafarer's contempt for the luxuries of the life on land on the one hand 
and the aspirations of a spiritual nature on the other, of which the sea 
bird is to him the type. In dwelling on these ideals the poet loses sight 
of the seafarer and his half -heathen associations, and as inevitably rises 
to a contemplation of the cheering hopes of a future life afforded by Chris- 
tianity. ' ' 

The dullness and obscurity of the last part of the poem, however, and 
the obvious similarity to the homilies of the time make it very unlikely 
that the whole poem was written by one author.] 



I will sing of myself 
Tell of my travels 
How often I endured 



a song that is true, 

and troublesome days, 

days of hardship ; 

68 



THE SEAFAEEB 69 

Bitter breast-care I have borne as my portion, 

5 Have seen from my ship sorrowful shores, 

Awful welling of waves ; oft on watch I have been 
On the narrow night-wakes at the neck of the ship. 
When it crashed into cliffs ; with cold often pinched 
Were my freezing feet, by frost bound tight 

10 In its blighting clutch ; cares then burned me, 
Hot around my heart. Hunger tore within 
My sea-weary soul. To conceive this is hard 
For the landsman who lives on the lonely shore — 
How, sorrowful and sad on a sea ice-cold, 

1^ I eked out my exile through the awful winter 

deprived of my kinsmen. 

Hung about by icicles ; hail flew in showers. 
There I heard naught but the howl of the sea. 
The ice-cold surge with a swan-song at times ; 

20 The note of the gannet for gayety served me. 
The sea-bird's song for sayings of people. 
For the mead-drink of men the mew's sad note. 
Storms beat on the cliffs, 'mid the cry of gulls. 
Icy of feather ; and the eagle screamed, 

25 The. dewy-winged bird. No dear friend comes 
With merciful kill3ness my misery to conquer. 
Of this little can he judge who has joy in his life. 
And, settled in the city, is sated with wine. 
And proud and prosperous — how painful it is 
When I wearily wander on the waves full oft ! 
Night shadows descended ; it snowed from the north ; 
The world was fettered with frost ; hail fell to the 
earth, 



30 



70 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

The coldest of corns. 

Yet course now desires 
Wliicli surge in my heart for the high seas, 
35 That I test the terrors of the tossing waves ; 
My soul constantly kindles in keenest impatience 
To fare itself forth and far off hence 
To seek the strands of stranger tribes. 

There is no one in this world so o'erweening in 
power, 
^^ So good in his giving, so gallant in his youth. 
So daring in his deeds, so dear to his lord. 
But that he leaves the land and longs for the sea. 
By the grace of God he will gain or lose ; 
Nor hearkens he to harp nor has heart for gift- 
treasures, 
^5 Nor in the wiles of a wife nor in the world rejoices. 
Save in the welling of waves no whit takes he pleas- 
ure; 
But he ever has longing who is lured by the sea. 

The forests are in flower and fair are the hamlets ; 
The woods are in bloom, the world is astir : 
50 Everything lirges one eager to travel. 
Sends the seeker of seas afar 
To try his fortune on the terrible foam. 

The cuckoo warns in its woeful call ; 
The summer-ward sings, sorrow foretelling, 
55 Heavy to the heart. Hard is it to know 

For the man of pleasure, what many with patience 
Endure who dare the dangers of exile ! 
In my bursting breast now burns my heart, 



THE SEAFABEB 71 

My spirit sallies over the sea-floods wide, 
60 Sails o'er the waves, w^anders afar 

To the bounds of the world and back at once, 
Eagerly, longingly; the lone flyer beckons 
My soul unceasingly to sail o 'er the whale-path, 
Over the waves of the sea. 

64. At this point the dull homiletic passage begins. Much of it is quite 
untranslatable. A free paraphrase may be seen In Cook and Tinker, Transla- 
tions from Old English Poetry, p. 47. 



THE WIFE'S LAMENT 

[Text used: Kluge, Angelsdchsisches Lesehuch, p. 146. 

The meaning of some parts of this poem is very obscure — especially 
lines 18-21 and 42-47. No satisfactory explanation of them has been 
given. There is probably no relation except in general theme between 
it and The Husband's Message.] 

Sorrowfully I sing my song of woe, 
My tale of trials. In truth I may say 
That the buffets I have borne since my birth in the 

world 
Were never more than now, either new or old. 
^ Ever the evils of exile I endure ! 

Long since went my lord from the land of his 
birth. 
Over the welling waves. Woeful at dawn I asked 

Where lingers my lord, in what land does he dwell? 
Then I fared into far lands and faithfully sought 
him, 
10 A weary wanderer in want of comfort. 

His treacherous tribesmen contrived a plot, 
Dark and dastardly, to drive us apart 
The width of a world, where with weary hearts 
We live in loneliness, and longing consumes me. 
1^ My master commanded me to make my home here. 
Alas, in this land my loved ones are few. 
My faithful friends ! Hence I feel great sorrow 

72 



THE WIFE'S LAMENT 73 

That the man well-matched with me I have found 

To be sad in soul and sorrowful in mind, 
20 Concealing his thoughts and thinking of murder, 

Though blithe in his bearing. Oft we bound us by 
oath 

That the day of our death should draw us apart, 

Nothing less end our love. Alas, all is changed ! 

Now is as naught, as if never it were, 
25 Our faith and our friendship. Far and near I shall 

Endure the hate of one dear to my heart ! 

He condemned me to dwell in a darksome wood. 

Under an oak-tree in an earth-cave drear. 

Old is the earth-hall. I am anxious with longing. 
30 Dim are the dales, dark the hills tower. 

Bleak the tribe-dwellings, with briars entangled, 

Unblessed abodes. Here bitterly I have suffered 

The faring of my lord afar. Friends there are on 
earth 

Living in love, in lasting bliss, 
35 While, wakeful at dawn, I wander alone 

Under the oak-tree the earth-cave near. 

Sadly I sit there the summer-long day. 

Wearily weeping my woeful exile, 

My many miseries. Hence I may not ever 
^0 Cease my sorrowing, my sad bewailing. 

Nor all the longings of my life of woe. 

Always may the young man be mournful of spirit, 

Unhappy of heart, and have as his portion 

Many sorrows of soul, unceasing breast-cares, 
45 Though now blithe of behavior. Unbearable likewise 



74 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Be his joys in the world. Wide be his exile 
To far-away folk-lands where my friend sits alone, 
A stranger under stone-cliffs, by storm made hoary, 
A weary-souled wanderer, by waters encompassed, 
50 In his lonely lodging. My lover endures 

Unmeasured mind-care : he remembers too oft 

A happier home. To him is fate cruel 

Who lingers and longs for the loved one's return! 



THE HUSBAND'S MESSAGE 

[Text used: Kluge, Angelsllchsisches Lesehuch. 

The piece of wood on which the message is written speaks throughout 
the poem. It is impossible to tell whether the sender of the message is 
husband or lover of the woman addressed. 

Some scholars consider the riddle on ' ' The Eeed, ' ' number LX, as the 
true beginning of this poem. It precedes the ' ' Message ' ' in the manu- 
script. Hicketeir ( Anglia, xi, 363) thinks that it does not belong with 
that riddle, but that it is itself a riddle. He cites the Runes, in lines 
51-2, especially as evidence. Trautmann (Anglia xvi, 207) thinks that it 
is part of a longer poem, in which the puzzling relation would be straight- 
ened out.] 

First I shall freely confide to you 
The tale of this tablet of wood. As a tree I grew up 
On the coast of Mecealde, close by the sea. 
Frequently thence to foreign lands 
^ I set forth in travel, the salt streams tried 
In the keel of the ship at a king's behest. 
Full oft on the bosom of a boat I have dwelt, 
Fared over the foam a friend to see, 
Wherever my master on a mission sent me, 

^^ Over the crest of the wave. I am come here to you 
On the deck of a ship and in duty inquire 
How now in your heart you hold and cherish 
The love of my lord. Loyalty unwavering 
I affirm without fear you will find in his heart. 

1^ The maker of this message commands me to bid 
thee, 

l-G. The text here is so corrupt that an almost complete reconstruction has 
been necessary. 

75 



76 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

bracelet-adorned one, to bring to thy mind 
And impress on thy heart the promises of love 
That ye two in the old days often exchanged 
While at home in your halls unharmed you might 
still 

2^ Live in the land, love one another, 

Dwell in the same country. He was driven by feud 
From the powerful people. He prays now most ear- 
nestly 
That you learn with delight you may launch on the 

sea-stream 
When from the height of the hill you hear from afar 

25 The melancholy call of the cuckoo in the wood. 
Let not thereafter any living man 
Prevent thy voyage or prevail against it. 
Seek now the shore, the sea-mew 's home ! 
Embark on the boat that bears thee south, 

30 Where far over the foam thou shalt find thy lord, — 
Where lingers thy lover in longing and hope. 

In the width of the world not a wish or desire 
More strongly stirs him (he instructs me to say) 
Than that gracious God should grant you to live 

35 Ever after at ease together, 

To distribute treasures to retainers and friends, 
To give rings of gold. Of gilded cups 
And of proud possessions a plenty he has. 
And holds his home far hence with strangers, 

^0 His fertile fields, where follow him many 

High-spirited heroes — though here my liege-lord, 
Forced by the fates, took flight on a ship 



TRE HUSBAND'S MESSAGE 77 

And on the watery waves went forth alone 
To fare on the flood-way : fain would he escape, 

45 Stir up the sea-streams. By strife thy lord hath 
Won the fight against woe. No wish will he have 
For horses or jewels or the joys of mead-drinking, 
Nor any earl's treasures on earth to be found, 

gentle lord's daughter, if he have joy in thee, 
50 As by solemn vows ye have sworn to each other. 

1 set as a sign S and E together, 

E, A, W, and D, as an oath to assure you 
That he stays for thee still and stands by his troth ; 
And as long as he lives it shall last unbroken, — 
55 Which often of old with oaths ye have plighted. 

51. In the manuscript these letters appear as runes. For illustrations 
of the appearance of runes, see the introductory note to "Cynewulf and his 
School," p. 95, below. What these runes stood for, or whether they were 
supposed to possess unusual ox magic power is purely a matter of conjecture. 



THE RUIN 

[Text used: Kluge, Angelsachsisches Lesehiich. 

This description of a ruin with hot baths is generally assumed to be 
of the Eoman city of Bath. The fact that the poet uses unusual words 
and unconventional lines seems to indicate that he wrote with his eye on 
the object.] 

Wondrous is its wall-stone laid waste by the fates. 

The burg-steads are burst, broken the work of the 
giants. 

The roofs are in ruins, rotted away the towers, 

The fortress-gate fallen, with frost on the mortar. 
^ Broken are the battlements, low bowed and decay- 
ing. 

Eaten under by age. The earth holds fast 

The master masons : low mouldering they lie 

In the hard grip of the grave, till shall grow up and 
perish 

A hundred generations. Hoary and stained with red, 
10 Through conquest of kingdoms, unconquered this 
wall endured. 

Stood up under storm. The high structure has fallen. 

Still remains its wall-stone, struck down by weapons. 

They have fallen 

Ground down by grim fate 

14-18. The text is too corrupt to perrait of reconstruction. A literal transla- 
tion of the fragmentary lines has been given in order to show the student 
something of the loss we have suffered in not having the whole of this finely 
conceived lament for fallen grandeur. The line numbers are those of Kluge's 
text. 

78 



THE EUIN 79 

15 Splendidly it shone 

The cunning creation , 

from its clay covering is bent ; 

Mind the swift one drawn. 

The bold ones in counsel bound in rings 

19 The wall-foundations with wires, wondrously to- 

gether. 

20 Bright were the burgher's homes, the bath halls 

many. 
Gay with high gables — a great martial sound. 
Many mead-halls, where men took their pleasure, 
Till an end came to all, through inexorable fate. 
The people all have perished; pestilence came on 
them : 
25 Death stole them all, the staunch band of warriors. 
Their proud works of war . now lie waste and de- 
serted; 
This fortress has fallen. Its defenders lie low. 
Its repairmen perished. Thus the palace stands 

dreary, 
And its purple expanse; despoiled of its tiles 
^'^ Is the roof of the dome. The ruin sank to earth. 
Broken in heaps — there where heroes of yore. 
Glad-hearted and gold-bedecked, in gorgeous array, 
Wanton with wine-drink in war-trappings shone: 
They took joy in jewels and gems of great price, 
35 In treasure untold and in' topaz-stones. 

In the firm-built fortress of a far-stretching realm. 

The stone courts stood; hot streams poured forth, 

Wondrously welled out. The wall encompassed all 



80 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

In its bright embrace. Baths were there then, 
40 Hot all within — a healthful convenience. 

They let then pour 

Over the hoary stones the heated streams, 

Such as never were seen by our sires till then. 

Hringmere was its name . 

•^^ The baths were there then; then is ... . 

That is a royal thing 

In a house 



II. CHRISTIAN POETRY 



11. CHRISTIAN POETRY 
1. G^DMONIAN SCHOOL 

[Concerning the man Csedmon, we have nothing but Bede's account in 
his Ecclesiastical History (see p. 179 below) and Cgedmon's Hymn. 

Genesis was first published in Amsterdam 1655, next in 1752, The first 
editions brought Genesis under Csedmon 's name, because of Bede's 
account. There is, however, no such clue in the manuscript. The assign- 
ment of Genesis to Caedmon was questioned by Hicks as early as 1689. 
The Caedmonian authorship was defended in the early part of the nine- 
teenth century by Conybeare and Thorpe. It is now agreed that all the 
Caedmonian Paraphrases are probably by different authors. 

Cf. A. S. Cook, ''The Name Caedmon, " Publications of the Modern 
Language Association of America, vi, 9, and ''Caedmon and the Euthwell 
Cross," Modern Language Notes, v, 153.] 

C^DMON'S HYMN 

[Text used: Kluge, AngelsdcJisisches Lesehuch. 

Prose translation: Kennedy, The Ccedmon Poems, p. xvii. 

The poem is interesting in that it is found in two texts, the Northum- 
brian and the West Saxon. It is the only thing we have that was un- 
doubtedly written by Csedmon.] 

Now shall we praise the Prince of heaven, 

The might of the Maker and his manifold thought, 

The work of the Father : of what w^onders he wrought 

The Lord everlasting, when he laid out the worlds. 

He first raised up for the race of men 

The heaven as a roof, the holy Ruler. 

Then the world below, the Ward of mankind, 

6. The many synonyms (known as "kennings") make this passage impossi- 
ble to translate into smooth English. This fact is true in a measure of all 
Old English poetry, but it is especially the case with this hymn. 

83 



84 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

The Lord everlasting, at last established 
As a home for man, the Almighty Lord. 
Primo cantavit Csedmon istud carmen. 



BEDE'S DEATH SONG 

[Text used: Kluge, Angelsdclisisclies Lesehuch. 

This poem was attributed to Bede, who died in 735, by his pupil, Cuth- 
bert, who translated it into Latin. The Northumbrian version is in a 
manuscript at St. Gall.] 

These verses are examples of gnomic poetry, which was very popular in 
Old English literature. Miss Williams, in her Gnomic Poetry in Anglo- 
Saxon (Columbia University Press, 1914), p. 67, says that this is the 
earliest gnomic expression in Old English for which a definite date may 
be set. 

Text criticism: Charlotte D 'Evelyn, ''Bede's Death Song," Modern 
Language Notes, xxx, 31. 

Before leaving this life there lives no one 

Of men of wisdom who will not need 

To consider and judge, ere he sets on his journey, 

Wliat his soul shall be granted of good or evil — 

After his day of death what doom he shall meet. 

1. Bede, the author of the Ecclesiastical History of England, was the greatest 
figure in the English church of the seventh and eighth centuries. 



SELECTIONS FROM GENESIS 

[The poem readily divides itself into two parts: Genesis A, the bulk 
of the poem, and Genesis B, lines 235-853. The latter is a translation 
from the Old Saxon. The passage here translated is from Genesis A. 

GENESIS A 

Critical edition of Genesis A : F. Holthausen, Die alt ere Genesis, 
Heidelberg, 1914. 

Translation: C. W. Kennedy, The Ccedmon Poems, New York, 
1916, p. 7. 

Partial translation : W. F. H. Bosanquet, The Fall of Man or Paradise 
Lost of Ccedmon, London, 1869. 

Date and place : Early eighth century ; Northern England. The author 
was obviously acquainted with Beowulf. 

Source: Vulgate Bible, first twenty-two chapters.] 

The Offeeing of Isaac 

2845 Then the powerful King put to the test 
His trusted servant ; tried him sorely 
To learn if his love was lasting and certain. 
With strongest words he sternly said to him : 
* * Hear me and hasten hence, Abraham. 

2850 ^g thou leavest, lead along with thee 

Thy own child Isaac ! As an offering to me 
Thyself shalt sacrifice thy son with thy hands. 
When thy steps have struggled up the steep hill- 
side, 

2845. This selection is based directly on the biblical account of the offering 
of Isaac. The clearness with which the picture is visualized by the poet, and 
the fine restraint in the telling of the dramatic incident make this passage 
a fitting close for the paraphrase of Genesis. 

85 



86 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

To the height of the land which from here I shall 
show you — 

2855 ^hen thine own feet have climbed, there an altar 
erect me, 
Build a tire for thy son; and thyself shalt kill him 
With the edge of the sword as a sacrifice to me ; 
Let the black flame burn the body of that dear one. ' ' 
He delayed not his going, but began at once 

2860 To prepare for departure: he was compelled to 
obey 
The angel of the Lord, and he loved his God. 
And then the faultless father Abraham 
Gave up his night's rest ; he by no means failed 
To obey the Lord's bidding, but the blessed man 

2865 Grirded his gray sword, God's spirit he showed 
That he bore in his breast. His beasts then he fed, 
This aged giver of gold. To go on the journey 
Two young men he summoned: his son made the 

third ; 
He himself was the fourth. He set forward eagerly 

2870 From his own home and Isaac with him, 
The child ungrown, as charged by his God. 
Then he hurried ahead and hastened forth 
Along the paths that the Lord had pointed, 
The way through the waste ; till the wondrous 
bright 

2875 Dawn of the third day over the deep water 
Arose in radiance. Then the righteous man 
Saw the hill-tops rise high around him, 
As the holy Euler of heaven had shown him. 



SELECTIONS FBOM GENESIS 87 

Then Abraliam said to liis serving-men: 
2880 iiQ ucien of mine, remain here now 

Quietly in this place ! We shall quickly return 
When Ave two have performed the task before us 
Which the Sovereign of souls has assigned us to 
do." 
The old man ascended with his own son 
2885 To the place wdiich the Lord had appointed for 
them, 
Went through the wealds ; the wood Isaac carried — 
His father the fire and the sword. Then first in- 
quired 
The boy young in winters, in these words of Abra- 
ham: 
^^Fire and sword, my father, we find here ready: 
2890 "Where is the glorious offering which to God on the 
altar 
Thou thinkest to bring and bum as a sacrifice!" 

Abraham answered (he had only one thing 
That he wished to perform, the will of the Father) : 
^^The Sovereign of all himself shall find it, 
2895 ^g the Lord of men shall believe to be meet." 

Up the steep hill struggled the stout-hearted man, 
Leading the child as the Lord had charged. 
Till climbing he came to the crest of the height. 
To the place appointed by the powerful Lord, 
2900 Following the commands of his faithful Master. 
He loaded the altar and lighted the fire, 
And fettered fast the feet and hands 
Of his beloved son and lifted upon it 



88 ^ OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

The youthful Isaac, and instantly grasped 
2905 The sword by the hilt ; his son he would kill 

With his hands as he promised and pour on the 
fire 

The gore of his kinsman. —Then God 's servant, 

An angel of the Lord, to Abraham loudly 

Spoke with words. He awaited in quiet 
2910 The behests from on high and he hailed the angel. 
Then forthwith spoke from the spacious heavens 

The messenger of God, with gracious words : 
^'Burn not thy boy, blessed Abraham, 

Lift up the lad alive from the altar; 
2915 The God of Glory grants him his life ! 

man of the Hebrews, as meed for thy obedience, 

Through the holy hand of heaven's King, 

Thyself shall receive a sacred reward, 

A liberal gift : the Lord of Glory 
2920 Shall favor thee with fortune ; his friendship shall 
be 

More sacred than thy son himself to thee." 
The altar still burned. Abraham was blessed 

By the King of mankind, the kinsman of Lot, 

With the grace of God, since he gave his son, 
2925 Isaac, alive. Then the aged man looked 

Around over his shoulder, and a ram he saw 

Not far away fastened alone 

In a bramble bush — Haran's brother saw it. 

Then Abraham seized it and set it on the altar 
2930 Iji eager haste for his own son. 

2928. Haran, the brother of Abraham, is mentioned in Genesis, 11 :26, ff. 



SELECTIONS FROM GENESIS 89 

With his sword he smote it ; as a sacrifice he adorned 
The reeking altar with the ram^s hot blood, 
Gave to his God this gift and thanked him 
For all of the favors that before and after 
935 ij^j^e Lord had allowed him in his loving grace. 



SELECTIONS FROM EXODUS 

[Critical edition: Francis A. Blackburn, Exodus and Daniel, Boston 
and London, 1907, Belles-Lettres Series. 

Translation : Kennedy, The Ccedmon Poems, p. 99. 

There can be no doubt that both Exodus and Daniel are hj different 
hands from Genesis A or Genesis B, and they are themselves by different 
authors.] 

The Crossing of the Red Sea 

When these words had been uttered the army arose ; 

300 Still stood the sea for the staunch warriors. 
The cohorts lifted their linden-shields, 
Their signals on the sand. The sea-wall mounted, 
Stood upright over Israel's legion, 
For day's time; then the doughty band 

305 Was of one mind. The wall of the sea-streams 
Held them unharmed in its hollow embrace. 
They spurned not the speech nor despised its teach- 
ing, , 
As the wise man ended his words of exhorting 
And the noise diminished and mingled with the 
sound. 

310 Then the fourth tribe traveled foremost, 

299. Moses han just finished telling the children of Israel that he has 
been able to make the sea part its waves so that they may walk across 
unharmed. 

307, 308. This passage is obscure in meaning. 

310. The tribe of Judah lead the way. They are followed by the tribe 
of Reuben (v. 331) and then by the tribe of Simeon (v. 340). This order 
is perhaps taken from Numbers, chapter ii. 

90 



SELECTIONS FROM EXODUS 91 

Went into the waves, the warriors in a band 
Over the green ground; the goodly Jewish troop 
Struggled alone over the strange path 
Before their kinsmen. So the King of heaven 
For that day's work made deep reward, 
He gave them a great and glorious victory, 
That to them should belong the leadership 
In the kingdom, and triumph over their kinsmen 

and tribesmen. 
When they stepped on the sand, as a standard 

and sign 
A beacon they raised over the ranks of shields. 
Among the godly group, a golden lion. 
The boldest of beasts over the bravest of peoples. 
At the hands of their enemy no dishonor or shame 
Would they deign to endure all the days of their 

life, 
While boldly in battle they might brandish their 

shields 
Against any people. The awful conflict, 
The fight was at the front, furious soldiers 
Wielding their weapons, warriors fearless, 
And bloody wounds, and wild battle-rushes. 
The jostling of helmets where the Jews advanced. 
Marching after the army were the eager seamen, 
The sons of Reuben; raising their shields 
The sea-vikings bore them over the salt waves, 
A multitude of men ; a mighty throng 

331. The Children of Israel are called "sailors" in the poem, but no satis- 
factory explanation has been made of the usage. 



92 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

335 ^ent bravely forth. The birthright of Reuben 
Was forfeited by his sins, so that he followed after 
In his comrade 's track. In the tribes of the Hebrews, 
The blessings of the birthright his brother enjoyed. 
His riches and rank; yet Eeuben was brave. 

340 Following him came the folk in crowds, 
The sons of Simeon in swarming bands. 
The third great host. With hoisted banners 
Over the watery path the w^ar-troop pressed 
Dewy under their shafts. When daylight shone 

24^ Over the brink of the sea, — the beacon of Grod, 
The bright morning, — the battle-lined marched. 
Each of the tribes traveled in order. 
At the head of the helmeted host was one man. 
Mightiest in majesty and most renowned; 

250 He led forward the folk as they followed the cloud, 
By tribes and by troops. Each truly knew 
The right of rank as arranged by Moses, 
Every man's order. They were all from one father. 
Their sacred sire received his land-right, 

355 ^ise in counsel, well-loved by his kinsmen. 
He gave birth to a brave, bold-hearted race, 
The sage patriarch to a sacred people. 
To the Children of Israel, the chosen of God. 

The folk were affrighted with fear of the ocean ; 
Sad were their souls. The sea threatened death; 
The sides of the hill were soaked with blood ; 

335, 336. See Genesis 49:1. 

354. This refers to God's promise to Abraham. See Genesis 15 :18 ; 22 :17. 



SELECTIONS FBOM EXODUS 93 

Gory was the flood, confusion on the waves, 
The water full of weapons ; the wave-mist arose. 
The Egyptians turned and journeyed backward; 
They fled in fright; fear overtook them; 
Hurrying in haste their homes they sought ; 
Their pride had fallen; they felt sweep over them 
The welling waters ; not one returned 
Of the host to their homes, but behind they were 

locked 
By Wyrd in the waves. Where once was the path 
The breakers beat and bore down the army. 
The stream stood up ; the storm arose 
High to the heavens, the harshest of noises. 
Dark grew the clouds. The doomed ones cried 
With fated voices ; the foam became bloody. 
The sea-walls were scattered and the skies were 

lashed 
With the direst of deaths; the daring ones were 

slain. 
The princes in their pomp — they were past all help 
In the edge of the ocean. Their armor shone 
High over the hosts. Over the haughty ones poured 
The stream in its strength. Destroyed were the troop 
And fettered fast; they could find no escape. 

The Egyptians were 
For that day's work deeply punished. 
Because not any of the army ever came home; 
Of that mighty multitude there remained not a one 
Who could tell the tale of the traveling forth 



94 



OLD ENGLISH POEMS 



Who could announce in the cities 

news 
To the wives of the warriors 
But the sea-death swallowed 
And their messengers too, 

power, 
515 And destroyed their pride, 

God. 



the sorrowful 



of the woeful disaster, 
the sinful men, 
in the midst of their 

for they strove against 



2. CYNEWULF AND HIS SCHOOL 

[Aside from Caedmon's Hjmn, the only Old English poems whose 
author we know are four bearing the name of Cynewulf, Christ, Juliana, 
Elene, and The Fates of the Apostles. In these he signs his name by 
means of runes inserted in the manuscript. These runes, which are at once 
letters of the alphabet and words, are made to fit into the context. They 
are hfii+n^nrr. 

Several other poems have been ascribed to Cynewulf, especially 
Andreas, The Dream of the Bood, Gutlilac, The Ph(jonix, and Judith. 
Except for internal evidence there is no proof of the authorship of these 
poems. The Eiddles were formerly thought to be by Cynewulf, but 
recent scholars have, with one notable exception, abandoned that theory. 

Many reconstructions of the life of Cynewulf have been undertaken. 
The most reasonable theories seem to be that he was Cynewulf, Bishop of 
Lindisfarne, who died about 781; or that he was a priest, Cynewulf, who 
executed a decree in 803. There is no real proof that either of these men 
was the poet. For a good discussion of the Cynewulf question, see Strunk, 
Juliana, pp. xvii-xix, and Kennedy, The Poems of Cynewulf, Introduction. 

Of the signed poems of Cynewulf, selections are here given from Christ 
and Elene.'] 

a, CYNEWULF 

SELECTIONS FROM THE CHRIST 

[Critical edition: Cook, The Christ of Cynewulf, Boston, 1900. 
Text and translation: Gollancz. Cynewulf 's Christ, London, 1892. 
Translation : Kennedy, The Poems of Cynewulf, pp. 153, f f . 
The poem consists of three parts: 

1. Advent, largely from the Eoman breviary. 

2. Ascension, taken from an Ascension sermon of Pope Gregory. 

3. Second coming of Christ, taken from an alphabetical Latin hymn 

on the Last Judgment, quoted by Bede. 
Is there enough unity to make us consider it one work? Cook thinks 
we can. The differences in the language and meter are not so striking as 
to make it unlikely. The great objection to it is that the runes occur 
at the end of the second part, which is not far from the middle of the 
entire poem. In the three other poems signed by Cynewulf the runes occur 
near the end.] 

95 



96 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 



1. Hymn to Chkist 



to the King. 

Thou art the wall-stone that the workmen of old 
Eejected from the work. Well it befits thee 
To become the head of the kingly hall, 

^ To join in one the giant walls 

In thy fast embrace, the flint unbroken; 
That through all the earth every eye may see 
And marvel evermore, mighty Prince, 
Declare thy accomplishments through the craft of 
thy hand, 

10 Truth-fast, triumphant, and untorn from its place 
Leave w^all against wall. For the work it is needful 
That the Craftsman should come and the King him- 
self 
And raise that roof that lies ruined and decayed. 
Fallen from its frame. He formed that body, 

1^ The Lord of life, and its limbs of clay, 

And shall free from f oemen the frightened in heart, 
The downcast band, as he did full oft. 



2. Hymn to Jekusalem 

^0 vision of happiness! holy Jerusalem! 

Fairest of king's thrones! fortress of Christ! 
The home-seat of angels, where the holy alone, 

1. This poem begins in the fragmentary manner indicated by the transla- 
tion. 

2. See Psalms 118 :22. 



SELECTIONS FEOM THE CHEIST 97 



The souls of the righteous, shall find rest un- 
ceasing, 
Exulting in triumph. No trace of sin 

^^ Shall be made manifest in that mansion of bliss. 
But all faults shall flee afar from thee, 
All crime and conflict ; thou art covered with glory 
Of highest hope, as thy holy name showest. 
Cast now thy gaze on the glorious creation, 

60 How around thee the roomy roof of heaven 
Looks on all sides, how the Lord of Hosts 
Seeks thee in his course and comes himself, 
And adopts thee to dwell in, as in days agone 
In words of wisdom the wise men said, 

6^ Proclaimed Christ's birth as a comfort to thee. 
Thou choicest of cities! Now the child has come, 
Born to make worthless the work of the Hebrews. 
He bringeth thee bliss; thy bonds he unlooseth; 
He striveth for the stricken; understandeth their 
needs, — 

^0 How woeful men must wait upon mercy. 



3. Joseph and Maky 

[Mary] **0 my Joseph, Jacob's son, 
Kinsman of David, the king renowned, 
Dost thou plan to turn from thy plighted troth, 

164. This passage is especially interesting in being one of the first appear- 
ances of the dialogue form in Old English. Some scholars have gone so far 
as to think that we have here the germ from which English drama comes, 
but there does not seem reason to believe that the scene ever received any 
kind of dramatic representation. 



98 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

And leave my lovef" 

[Joseph'] "Alas, full soon 
I am oppressed with grief and deprived of honor. 
I have borne for thee many bitter words, 

170 Insulting slurs and sorrowful taunts, 
Scathing abuses, and they scorn me now 
In wrathful tones. My tears I shall pour 
In sadness of soul. My sorrowful heart. 
My grief full easily our God may heal, 

i''^ And not leave me forlorn. Alas, young damsel, 
Mary maiden ! ' ' 

[Mary'] "Why bemoanest thou 
And bitterly weepest f No blame in thee, 
Nor any fault have I ever found 
For wicked works, and this word thou speakest 

180 As if thou thyself A\dth sinful deeds 
And faults wert filled.'' 

[Joseph] "Far too much grief 
Thy conception has caused me to suffer in shame. 
How can I bear their bitter taunts 
Or ever make answer to my angry foes 

185 Who wish me woe? 'Tis widely known 

That I took from the glorious temple of God 

A beautiful virgin of virtue unblemished, 

The chastest of maidens, but a change has now 

come, 
Though I know not the cause. Nothing avails me — • 

190 To speak or to be silent. If I say the truth, 

Then the daughter of David shall die for her crime, 
Struck down with stones ; yet still it were harder 



SELECTIONS FROM THE CHRIST 99 

To conceal the sin ; forsworn forever 
I should live my life loathed by all people, 
195 gy nien reviled.'' Then the maid revealed 

The work of wonder, and these words she spoke : 

*' Truly I say, by the Son of the Creator 
The Savior of souls, the Son of God, 
I tell thee in truth that the time has not been 
200 That the embrace of a mortal man I have known 
On all the earth; but early in life 
This grace was granted me, that Gabriel came, 
The high angel of heaven, and hailed me in greet- 
ing. 
In truthful speech : that the Spirit of heaven 
With his light should illumine me, that life's Glory 
by me 
205 Should be borne, the bright Son, the blessed Child 
of God, 
Of the kingly Creator. I am become now his temple. 
Unspoiled and spotless; the Spirit of comfort 
Hath his dwelling in me. Endure now no longer 
Sorrow and sadness, and say eternal thanks 
210 To the mighty Son of the Maker, that his mother 
I have become. 
Though a maid I remain, and in men's opinion 
Thou art famed as his father, if fulfillment should 

come 
Of the truth that the Prophets foretold of his com- 
ing. ' ' 



100 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

4. EuNE Passage 

Not ever on eartli need any man 

7^0 Have dread of the darts of the devil's race, 

Of the fighting of the fiends, whose defense is in 

God, 
The just Lord of Hosts. The judgment is nigh 
When each without fail shall find his reward, 
Of weal or of woe, for his work on the earth 

785 During the time of his life. 'Tis told us in books. 
How from on high the humble one came. 
The Treasure-hoard of honor, to the earth below 
In the Virgin's womb, the valiant Son of God, 
Holy from on high. I hope in truth 

790 And also dread the doom far sterner. 

When Christ and his angels shall come again, 
Since I kept not closely the counsels my Savior 
Bade in his books. I shall bear therefore 
To see the work of sin (it shall certainly be) 

795 ^hen many shall be led to meet their doom. 
To receive justice in the sight of their Judge. 
Then the Courageous shall tremble, shall attend 
the King, 
The Eighteous Euler, when his wrath he speaks 
To the worldlings who weakly his warning have 
heeded 

779. The passage follo-sving contains the runes from which we obtain the 
name Cynewulf. The runes are at once a word and a letter, in the same 
way that our letter I is also the symbol for the first personal pronoun. In the 
places where the meaning fits, Cynewulf has written the runes that spell 
his name. 



SELECTIONS FEOM THE CHRIST 101 

800 ^hile their Yearning and Need even yet could have 
easily 
Found a comfort. There, cowering in fear, 
Many wearily shall w^ait on the wide plain 
What doom shall be dealt them for the deeds of 

their life. 
Of angry penalties. Departed hath Winsomeness, 
805 The ornaments of earth. It Used to be true 
That long our Life- joys were locked in the sea- 
streams. 
Our Fortunes on earth ; in the fire shall our treasure 
Burn in the blast ; brightly shall mount. 
The red flame, raging and w^rathfully striding 
810 Over the wide world ; wasted shall be the plains ; 
The castles shall crumble ; then shall climb the swift 

fire. 
The greediest of guests,* grimly and ruthlessly 
Eat the ancient treasure that of old men possessed 
While still on the earth was their strength and their 
pride. 
815 Hence I strive to instruct each steadfast man 
That he be cautious in the care of his soul, 
And not pour it forth in pride in that portion of 

days 
That the Lord allows him to live in the world, 
Wliile the soul abideth safe in the body, 
820 In that friendly home. It behooveth each man 
To bethink him deeply in the days of his life 

804. In this passage the runes omit the e of the poet's name, although it 
is found in the othei- runic passages. 



102 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

How meekly and mildly the mighty Lord 

Came of old to us by an angel's word; 

Yet grim shall he be when again he cometh, 

^2^ Harsh and righteous. Then the heavens shall rock, 
And the measureless ends of the mighty earth 
Shall tremble in terror. The triumphant King- 
Shall avenge their vain and vicious lives, 
Their loathsome wickedness. Long shall they wal- 
low 

830 ^Yith heavy hearts in the heat of the fire bath, 
Suffer for their sins in its surging flame. 



SELECTIONS FROM THE ELENE 

[Critical edition: Holthausen, Kyncwulf's Elene, Heidelberg, 1905. 

Translation: Kennedy, The Poems of Cynewulf, pp. 87 ff.; Kemble, 
Tlie Poetry of the Codex Vercelliensis, with an English translation, Lon- 
don, 1856. 

Source: Acta Sanctorum for May 4. 

The first passage describes the vision of the cross by the Emperor 
Constantine, the second the finding of the true cross by his mother, 
Helena, in Old English, ' ' Elene. ' ' 

The poem is usually regarded as Cynewulf 's masterpiece.] 

1. The VisioiST of the Ckoss 

Heart-care oppressed 

The Roman ruler ; of liis realm lie despaired ; , 
He was lacking in fighters ; too few were his war- 
riors, 
His close comrades to conquer in battle 
65 Their eager enemy. The army encamped, 

Earls about their aetheling, at the edge of the stream, 
Where they spread their tents for the space of the 

night, 
After first they had found their foes approach. 
To C^sar himself in his sleep there came 
'0 A dream as he lay with his doughty men. 
To the valiant king a vision appeared : 
It seemed that he saw a soldier bright, 
Glorious and gleaming in the guise of a man 
More fair of form than before or after 
75 He had seen under the skies. From his sleep he 
awoke, 

103 



104 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Hastily donned his helmet. The herald straightway, 
The resplendent messenger spoke unto him, 
Named him by name — the night vanished away : 
' ' Constantine, the King of angels bids— 
80 The Master Almighty, to make thee a compact, 
The Lord of the faithful. No fear shouldst thou 

have, 
Though foreign foes bring frightful war, 
And horrors unheard of ! To heaven now look, 
To the Guardian of glory: Thou shalt gain there 
support, 
85 The sign of victory ! ' ' 

Soon was he ready 
To obey the holy bidding, and unbound his heart. 
And gazed on high, as the herald had bade him. 
The princely Peace-weaver. With precious jewels 

adorned. 
He saw the radiant rood over the roof of clouds, 
90 Gorgeous with gold and gleaming gems. 
The brilliant beam bore these letters 
Shining with light : ' ' Thou shalt with this sign 
Overcome and conquer in thy crying need 
The fearsome foe.'' Then faded the light, 
95 And joining the herald, journeyed. on high 

Unto the clean-hearted company. The king was the 

blither. 
And suffered in his soul less sorrow and anguish, 
The valiant victor, through the vision fair. 

92. This is a translation of the famous Latin motto m hoc signo vinces. 



selections from the elene 105 

2. The Discovery of the Cross 

Striving in strength and with steadfast heart, 

He began to delve for the glorious tree 

Under its covering of turf, till at twenty feet 

Below the surface concealed he found 

Shut out from sight, under the shelving cliff. 

In the chasm of darkness —three crosses he found. 

In their gloomy grave together he found them, — 

Grimy all over, as in ancient days 

The unrighteous race had wrapped them in earth. 

The sinful Jews. Against the Son of God 

They showed their hate as they should not have 

done 
Had they not harkened to the behests of the devil. 
Then blithe was his heart and blissful within him. 
His soul was inspired by the sacred tree. 
His heart was emboldened when he beheld that bea- 
con 
Holy and deep hidden. With his hands he seized 
The radiant cross of heaven, and with his host he 

raised it 
From its grave in the earth. The guests from afar 
And princes and sethelings went all to the town. 
In her sight they set the three sacred trees. 
The proud valiant men, plain to be seen 
Before Elene's knee. And now was joy 

829. After Constantine has accepted Christianity, his mother Helena 
(Elene) undertakes a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for the purpose of discover- 
ing the true cross. After many failures she finally learns where it is hidden. 
The passage here translated relates the discovery of the cross. 



106 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

850 In the heart of the Queen ; she inquired of the men 
On which of the crosses the crucified Lord, 
The heavenly Hope-giver, hung in pain : 

^ ' Lo ! we have heard from the holy books 
It told for a truth that two of them 

855 Suffered with him and himself was the third 

On the hallowed tree. The heavens were darkened 
In that terrible time. Tell, if you can. 
On which of these roods the Ruler of angels, 
The Savior of men suffered his death. 

860 jji no wise could Judas — for he knew not at all — 
Clearly reveal that victory tree"^^ 
On which the Lord was lifted high. 
The son of God, but they set, by his order, 
In the very middle of the mighty city 

865 The towering trees to tarry there. 

Till the Almighty King should manifest clearly 
Before the multitude the might of that marvelous 
rood. 
The assembly sat, their song uplifted; 
They mused in their minds on the mystery trees 

870 Until the ninth hour when new delight grew 

Through a marvelous deed. — There a multitude 

came. 
Of folk not a little, and, lifted among them. 
There was borne on a bier ^by brave-hearted men 
Nigh to the spot — it was the ninth hour — 

875 A lifeless youth. Then was lifted the heart 
Of Judas in great rejoicing and gladness. 
He commanded them to set the soulless man, 



880 



SELECTIONS FROM THE ELENE 107 

With life cut off, the corpse on the earth, 
Bereft of life, and there was raised aloft 
By the proclaimer of justice, the crafty of heart, 
The trusty in counsel, two of the crosses 
Over that house of death. It was dead as before 
The body fast to the bier : about the chill limbs 
Was grievous doom. Then began the third cross 

885 To be lifted aloft. There lay the body, 

Until above him was reared the rood of the Lord, 

The holy cross of heaven's King, 

The sign of salvation. He soon arose 

With spirit regained, and again were joined 

890 Body and soul. Unbounded w^as the praise 

And fair of the folk. The Father they thanked 
And the true and sacred Son of the Almighty 
With gracious words. — Glory and praise be his 
Always without end from every creature. 



10 



b, ANONYMOUS POEMS OF THE GYNE- 
WULFIAN SCHOOL 

THE DEEAM OF THE ROOD 

[Critical edition: Cook, The Dream of the Eood, Oxford, 1905. 

Author : * ' Making all due allowance, then, for the weakness of certain 
arguments both pro and con, the balance of probability seems to incline 
decidedly in favor of Cynewulfian authorship." — Cook. 

Translations: English Prose: Kemble. Verse: Stephens, 1866; 
Morley, 1888; Miss Iddings, 1902. 

The poem has much in common with Elene, especially the intimate 
self-analysis. Portions of it are on the Euthwell Cross in Dumfriesshire. 
It is claimed as Cynewulf 's, but there is nothing to indicate this except 
the beauty of style, which has caused it to be called ' ' the choicest blossom 
of Old English Christian poetry."] 

Lo, I shall tell you the truest of visions, 

A dream that I dreamt in the dead of night 

While people reposed in peaceful sleep. 

I seemed to see the sacred tree 

Lifted on high in a halo of light, 

The brightest of beams ; that beacon was wholly 

Gorgeous with gold ; glorious gems stood 

Fair at the foot ; and five were assembled. 

At the crossing of the arms. The angels of God 

looked on, 
Fair through the firmament. It was truly no foul 

sinner's cross, 
For beholding his sufferings were the holy spirits, 
The men of the earth and all of creation. 

108 



THE DBEAM OF THE FOOD 109 

Wondrous was tliat victory-wood, and I wounded 

and stained 
With sorrows and sins. I saw the tree of glory 
15 Blessed and bright in brilliant adornments, 
Made joyous with jewels. Gems on all sides 
Full rarely enriched the rood of the Savior. 

Through the sight of that cross I came to perceive 
Its stiff struggle of old, when it started first 
20 To bleed on the right side. I was broken and cast 
down with sorrow ; 
The fair sight inspired me with fear. Before me the 

moving beacon 
Changed its clothing and color. At times it was cov- 
ered with blood 
Fearful and grimy with gore. At times with gold 

'twas adorned. 
Then I lay and looked for a long time 
25 And saw the Savior's sorrowful tree 
Until I heard it lift high its voice. 
The worthiest of the wood-race formed words and 
spoke : 
*^It was ages ago —I shall always remember- 
When first I was felled at the forest 's edge, 
30 My strong trunk stricken. Then strange enemies 
took me 
And fashioned my frame to a cross ; and their felons 

I raised on high. 
On their backs and shoulders they bore me to the 
brow of the lofty hill. 



IIQ OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

There the hated ones solidly set me. I saw there the 

Lord of Mankind 
Struggling forward with courage to climb my sturdy 

trunk. 
3-5 I dared not then oppose the purpose of the Lord, 
So I bent not nor broke when there burst forth a 

trembling 
From the ends of the earth. Easily might I 
Destroy the murderers, but I stood unmoved. 

^ ^ The Young Hero unclothed him — it was the holy 

God— 
40 Strong and steadfast ; he stepped to the high gal- 
lows. 
Not fearing the look of the fiends, and there he freed 

mankind. 
At his blessed embrace I trembled, but bow to the 

earth I dared not, 
Or forward to fall to the ground, but fast and true I 

endured. 
As a rood I was raised up ; a royal King I bore, 
45 The Lord of heavenly legions. I allowed myself 

never to bend. 
Dark nails through me they drove ; so that dastardly 

scars are upon me. 
Wounds wide open ; but not one of them dared I to 

harm. 

39. The lines that follow appear with some changes on the Ruthwell Cross 
in Dumfriesshire. 

44. This and the following line form the basis of an inscription on a 
reliquary containing a cross preserved in the Cathedral at Brussels. 



TEE DEEAM OF THE EOOD HI 

They cursed and reviled us together. I was covered all 

over with blood, ' 
That flowed from the Savior's side when his soul 

had left the flesh. 
^0 Sorrowful the sights I have seen on that hill, 
Grim-visaged grief : the God of mankind I saw 
And his frightful death. The forces of darkness 
Covered with clouds the corpse of the Lord, 
The shining radiance*; the shadows darkened 
^^ Under the cover of clouds. Creation all wept, 
The king's fall bewailed. Christ was on the rood. 

Finally from afar came faithful comrades 
To the Savior's side, and I saw it all. 
Bitter the grief that I bore, but I bowed me low to 

their hands; 
^0 My travail was grievous and sore. They took then 

God Almighty, 
From loathsome torment they lifted him. The war- 
riors left me deserted, 
To stand stained with blood. I was stricken and 

wounded with nails. 
Limb-weary they laid him there, and at their Lord 's 

head they stood. 
They beheld there the Ruler of heaven; and they 

halted a while to rest, 
6^ Tired after the terrible struggle. A tomb then they 

began to make. 
His friends in sight of his foes. Of the fairest of 

stone they built it, 



112 OLB ENGLISH POEMS 

And set their Savior upon it. A sorrowful dirge they 

chanted, 
Lamented their Master at evening, when they made 

their journey home. 
Tired from their loved Lord's side. And they left 

him with the guard. 
70 We crosses stood there streaming with blood. 
And waited long after the wailing ceased 
Of the brave company. The body grew cold, 
The most precious of corpses. Then they pulled us 

down, 
All to the earth — an awful fate ! 
75 They buried us low in a pit. But the loved disciples 

of Christ, 
His faithful friends made search and found me and 

brought me to light, 
And gorgeously decked me with gold and with sil- 
ver. 
' ' Now mayst thou learn, my beloved friend. 
That the work of the wicked I have worthily borne, 
^0 The most trying of torments. The time is now come 
When through the w^ide world I am worshipped and 

honored. 
That all manner of men, and the mighty creation, 
Hold sacred this sign. On me the Son of God 
Death-pangs endured. Hence, dauntless in glory, 
85 I rise high under heaven, and hold out salvation 
To each and to all who have awe in my presence. 
^^Long ago I was the greatest and most grievous 

of torments. 



90 



THE DREAM OF THE EOOD 113 

Most painful of punishments, till I pointed aright 
The road of life for the race of men. 

''Lo, a glory was given by the God of Creation 
To the worthless wood — by the Warden of heaven- 
Just as Mary, his mother, the maiden blessed, 
Received grace and gloiy from God Almighty, 
And homage and worship over other women. 

95 ' ' And now I bid thee, my best of comrades, 
That thou reveal this vision to men. 
Tell them I am truly the tree of glory. 
That the Savior sorrowed and suffered upon me 
For the race of men and its many sins, 

100 And the ancient evil that Adam wrought. 

*'He there tasted of death; but in triumph he 
rose. 
The Lord in his might and gave life unto men. 
Then he ascended to heaven, and hither again 
Shall the Savior descend to seek mankind 

105 On the day of doom, the dreaded Euler 
Of highest heaven, with his host of angels. ' 
Then will he adjudge with justice and firmness 
Rewards to the worthy whose works have deserved 

them. 
Who loyally lived their lives on the earth. 

110 Then a feeling of fear shall fill every heart 

For the warning they had in the w^ords of their Mas- 
ter : 
He shall demand of many where the man may be 

found 
To consent for the sake of his Savior to taste 



114 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

The bitter death as He did on the cross. 

11^ They are filled with fear and few of them think 
What words they shall speak in response to Christ 
Then no feeling of fright or fear need he have 
Who bears on his heart the brightest of tokens, 
But there shall come to the kingdom through the 
cross and its power 

120 All the souls of the saved from the sorrows of earth, 
Of the holy who hope for a home with their Lord. ' ^ 
Then I adored the cross with undaunted courage. 
With the warmest zeal, while I watched alone 
And saw it in secret. My soul was eager 

125 To depart on its path, but I have passed through 
many 
An hour of longing. Through all my life 
I shall seek the sight of that sacred tree 
Alone more often than all other men 
And worthily worship it. My will for this service 

130 Is steadfast and sturdy, and my strength is ever 
In the cross of Christ. My comrades of old. 
The friends of fortune, all far from the earth 
Have departed from the world and its pleasures and 

have passed to the King of Glory, 
And high in the heavens wdtli the holy God 

135 Are living eternally. And I long for the time 
To arrive at last when the rood of the Lord, 
Which once so plainly appeared to my sight, 
Shall summon my soul from this sorrowful life, 
And bring me to that bourne where bliss is unend 
inff 



THE DEE AM OF THE EOOD 115 

14^ And happiness of heaven, where the holy saints 
All join in a banquet, where joy is eternal. 
May He set me where always in after time 
I shall dw^ell in glory with God's chosen ones 
In delights everlasting. May the Lord be my friend, 

145 ^ho came to earth and of old on the cross 
Suffered and sorrowed for the sins of men. 
He broke there our bonds and bought for us life 
And a heavenly home. The hearts were now filled 
With blessings and bliss, which once burned with 
remorse. 

150 To the Son was his journey successful and joyful 
And crowned with triumph, when he came with his 

troops, 
With his gladsome guests into God's kingdom. 
The Almighty Judge's, and brought joy to the 

angels. 
And the host of the holy who in heaven before 

155 Dwelt in glory when their God arrived. 
The Lord Most High, at his home at last. 



JUDITH 

[Critical edition: Cook, Judith, Boston, 1904. 

Translation-: Hall, Judith, Phoe7iix and Other Anglo-Saxon Poems. 

Manuscript: The same as the one containing Beowulf. It was injured 
by a fire in 1731. It had been printed by Thwaites in 1698 before the 
injury. 

Authorship and date: The mixture of dialect forms seems to indicate 
that a northern original passed through one or more hands and that at 
least the last scribe belonged to the late West Saxon period. Cook thinks 
that it is not earlier than about 825 nor later than 937, and that it is 
possibly by Cynewulf . 

Source: Apocryphal book of Judith.] 

1. The Feast 

She doubted [not] the gifts 

In this wide world. There worthily she found 

Help at the hands of the Lord, when she had the 

highest need, 
Grace from God on high, that against the greatest 

of dangers 
The Lord of Hosts should protect her ; for this the 

Heavenly Father 
Graciously granted her wish, for she had given true 

faith 
To the holy Buler of heaven. 

1. Although the fragment begins in the middle of a line, it presents the 
appearance of being practically complete. Certainly, as it stands it makes 
an artistic whole : we begin and end the poem by showing how Judith was 
favored of God. Within a very short space after the opening lines we are 
in the midst of the action : Judith has come from her beleaguered city of 
Bethulia and enchanted Holofernes by her beauty, and Holofernes has finished 
his great feast by summoning her to him. All this is put before us in the 
first 37 lines. The rest of the poem is vividly conceived, from the slaying of 
the Assyrian king to the final victory and rejoicing. 

116 



JUDITH 117 

Holof ernes then, I am told, 
Called his warriors to a wine-feast and a wondrous 

and glorious 
Banquet prepared. To this the prince of men 
10 Bade the bravest of thanes. Then with bold haste 
To the powerful prince came the proud shield-war- 
riors, 
Before the chief of the folk. That was the fourth 

day 
Since the gentle Judith, just in her thoughts. 
Of fairy-like beauty, was brought to the king. 
'^'^ Then they sought the assembly to sit at the banquet. 
Proud to the wine-pouring, all his partners in woe. 
Bold burnie-warriors. Bowls large and deep 
Were borne along the benches; beakers also and 

flagons 
Full to the f casters. Fated they drank it, 
20 Renowned shield-knights, though he knew not their 

doom. 
The hateful lord of heroes. Holof ernes, the king, 
Bestower of jewels, took joy in the wine-pouring, 
Howled and hurled forth a hideous din 
That the folk of the earth from afar might hear 
^^' How the stalwart and strong-minded stormed and 

bellowed. 
Maddened by mead-drink ; he demanded full oft 
That the brave bench-sitters should bear themselves 

well. 
So the hellish demon through the whole of the day 
Drenched with drink his dear companions, 



118 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

3^ The cruel gold-king, till unconscious tliey lay, 

All drunk his doughty ones, as if in death they were 

slain, 
Every good gone from them. 

2. The Slaying of Holofernes 

He gave then commands 
To serve the hall-sitters till descending upon them 
Dark night came near. The ignoble one ordered 

35 The blessed maiden, burdened with jewels. 
Freighted with rings, to be fetched in all haste 
To his hated bedside. His behest they performed, 

His corps of retainers — the commands of their lord. 
Chief of the champions. Cheerfully they stepped 

40 To the royal guest-room, where full ready they 
found 
The queenly Judith, and quickly then 
The goodly knights began to lead 
The holy maiden to the high tent. 
Where the rich ruler rested always, 
45 Lay him at night, loathsome to God, 
Holofernes. There hung an all-golden 
Radiant fly-net around the folk-chief's 
Bed embroidered; so that the baleful one, 
The loathed leader, might look unhindered 

50 On everyone of the warrior band 
Wlio entered in, and on him none 
Of the sons of men, unless some of his nobles, 

52. Here begins a series of extended lines which some critics think are 
intended to lend an air of solemnity to the passage. A study of the occur- 
rence of these long lines in this and other poems, such as TJie Wanderer, 



JUDITH 119 

Contrivers of crime, he called to his presence : 

His barons to bring him advice. Then they bore to 

his rest 
^5 The wisest of women ; went then the strong-hearted 

band 
To make known to their master that the maiden of 

God 
Was brought to his bower. Then blithe was the chief 

in his heart, 
The builder of burg-steads; the bright maiden he 

planned 
With loathsome filth to defile, but the Father of 

heaven knew 
^0 His purpose, the Prince of goodness and with power 

he restrained him, 
God, the Wielder of Glory. Glad then the hateful 

one 
Went with his riotous rout of retainers 
Baleful to his bedside, where his blood should be 

spilled 
Suddenly in a single night. Full surely his end ap- 
proached 
6^ On earth ungentle, even as he lived, 

Stern striver for evil, while still in this world 
He dwelt under the roof of the clouds. Drunken with 

wine then he fell 
In the midst of his regal rest so that he recked not 

of counsel 

The Charms, or Widsith, does not seem to bear out this contention. Usually 
these long lines have three accents in each half. The rules for the allitera- 
tion are the same as for the short verses. 



120 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

In tlie chamber of liis mindf tlie champions stepped 
70 Out of his presence and parted in haste, 

The wine-sated warriors who went with the false 

one, 
And the evil enemy of man ushered to bed 
For the last time. 

Then the Lord's servant 
The mighty hand-maiden, was mindful in all things 
75 How she most easily from the evil contriver 
His life might snatch ere the lecherous deceiver. 
The creature crime-laden awoke. The curly-locked 

maiden 
Of God then seized the sword well ground, 
Sharp from the hammers, and from its sheath drew 
it 
80 With her right hand ; heaven 's Guardian she began 
To call by name, Creator of all 
The dwellers in the world, and these words she 
spoke : 
^'0 Heavenly God, and Holy Ghost, 
Son of the Almighty, I will seek from Thee 
85 Thy mercy unfailing to defend me from evil, 
Holiest Trinity. Truly for me now 
Full sore is my soul and sorrowful my heart, 
Tormented with griefs. Grant me, Lord of the skies. 
Success and soundness of faith, that with this sword 
I may, 
^0 Behead this hideous monster. Heed my prayer for 
salvation, 
Noble Lord of nations ; never have I had 



JUDITH 121 

More need of thy mercy ; f mighty Lord, avenge now 
Bright-minded Bringer of glory, that I am thus 

baffled in spirit. 
Heated in heart. ' ' Her then the greatest of Judges 
^5 With dauntless daring inspired, as he doth ever to 
all 
The sons of the Spirit who seek him for help. 
With reason and with right belief. Then was to the 

righteous in mind, 
Holy hope renewed ; the heathen man then she took, 
And held by his hair ; with her hands she drew him 

100 Shamefully toward her, and the traitorous deceiver 
Laid as she listed, most loathsome of men, 
In order that easily the enemy's body 
She might wield at her will. The wicked one she slew, 
The curly-locked maiden with her keen-edged sword, 

105 Smote the hateful-hearted one till she half cut 

through 
Severing his neck, so that swooning he lay 
Drunken and death-wounded. Not dead was he yet, 
Nor lifeless entirely: the triumphant lady 
More earnestly smote the second time 

110 The heathen hound, so that his head was thrown 
Forth on the floor; foul lay the carcass, 
Bereft of a soul; the spirit went elsewhere 
Under the burning abyss where abandoned it lay. 
Tied down in torment till time shall cease, 

11^ With serpents bewound, amid woes and tortures, 
All firmly fixed in the flames of hell, 
When death came upon him. He durst not hope, 



]^22 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Enveloped in blackness, to venture forth ever 
From that dreary hole, but dwell there he shall 
120 Forever and aye till the end of time, 

In that hideous home without hope of joy. 

3. The Retukn to Bethulia 

Great was the glory then gained in the fight 
By Judith at war, through the will of God, 
The mighty Master, who permitted her victory. 

125 Then the wise-minded maiden immediately threw 
The heathen warrior's head so bloody. 
Concealed it in the sack that her servant had 

brought — 
The pale-faced w^oman, polished in manners — 
Which before she had filled with food for them both. 

130 Then the gory head gave she to her goodly maid- 
servant 
To bear to their home, to her helper she gave it, 
To her junior companion. Then they journeyed to- 
gether. 
Both of the women, bold in their daring. 
The mighty in mind, the maidens exultant, 

135 Till they had wholly escaped from the host of the 
enemy. 
And could full clearly catch the first sight 
Of their sacred city and see the walls 
Of bright Bethulia. Then the bracelet-adorned ones, 
Traveling on foot, went forth in haste, 

140 Until they had journeyed, with joy in their hearts, 
To the wall-gate. 



JUDITH 123 



Tlie warriors sat 
Unwearied in watcliing, the wardens on duty, 
Fast in tlie fortress, as the folk erstwhile. 
The orieved ones of mind, by the maiden were coun- 



selled. 



145 By the wary' Judith, when she went on her journey. 
The keen-witted woman. She had come once more. 
Dear to her people, the prudent in counsel. 
She straightway summoned certain of the heroes 
From the spacious city speedily to meet her 

150 And allow her to enter without loss of time 

Through the gate of the wall, and these words she 

spoke 
To the victor-tribe : 

"I may tell to you now 

Noteworthy news, that you need no longer 
Mourn in your mind, for the Master is kind to you, 
155 The Ruler of nations. It is known afar 

Around the wide world that you have won glory ; 
Very great victory is vouchsafed in return 
For all the evils and ills you have suffered. 
Blithe then became the burghers within, 
160 men they heard how the Holy Maid spoke 
Over the high wall. The warriors rejoiced ; 
To the gate of the fortress the folk then hastened. 
Wives with their husbands, in hordes and in bands 
In crowds and in companies; they crushed and 

thronged . n i i 

165 Towards the handmaid of God by hundreds and 

thousands, 



124 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Old ones and young ones. All of the men 
In the goodly city were glad in their hearts 
At the joyous news that Judith was come 
Again to her home, and hastily then 

1^0 With humble hearts the heroes received her. 
Then gave the gold-adorned, sagacious in mind. 
Command to her comrade, her co-worker faithful 
The heathen chief 's head to hold forth to the people. 
To the assembly to show as a sign and a token, 

i'''"^ All bloody to the burghers, how in battle they sped. 
To the famed victory-folk the fair maiden spoke : 

* ^ proudest of peoples, princely protectors, 
Gladly now gaze on the gory face, 
On the hated head of the heathen warrior, 

180 Holof ernes, wholly life-bereft. 

Who most of all men contrived murder against us, 

The sorest of sorrows, and sought even yet 

With greater to grind us, but God would not suffer 

him 
Longer to live, that with loathsomest evils 

185 The proud one should oppress us ; I deprived him of 
life 
Through the grace of God. Now I give commands 
To you citizens bold, you soldiers brave-hearted, 
Protectors of the people, to prepare one and all 
Forthwith for the fight. When first from the east 

ISO The King of creation, the kindest of Lords, 

Sends the first beams of light, bring forth your lin- 
den-shields. 
Boards for your breasts and your burnie-corselets. 



JUDITH 125 

Your bright-liammered helmets to the hosts of the 

To fell the folk-leaders, the fated chieftains, 
195 With your fretted swords. Your foes are all 
Doomed to the death, and dearly-won glory 
Shall be yours in battle, as the blessed Creator ^ ^ 
The mighty Master, through me has made known. 

4. The Battle 

Then a band of bold knights busily gathered, 
200 Keen men at the conflict; with courage they stepped 

forth, 
Bearing banners, brave-hearted companions. 
And fared to the fight, forth in right order. 
Heroes under helmets from the holy city 
At the dawning of day ; dinned forth their shields 
205 A loud-voiced alarm. Now listened m ]oy 

The lank wolf in the wood and the wan raven. 
Battle-hungry bird, both knowing well 
That the gallant people would give to them soon 
A feast on the fated ; now flew on their track 
210 The deadly devourer, the dewy-wmged eagle. 
Singing his war-song, the swart-coated bird, 
The horned of beak. Then hurried the warriors. 
Keen for the conflict, covered with shields, 
With hollow lindens- they who long had endured 
215 The taunts and the tricks of the treacherous stran- 



gers 



.05. T.e Picture „, t.e Mrd. o, prey ---i^-^l-; '"^^rirot'olr/e 



126 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

The host of the heathen ; hard was it repaid now 

To all the Assyrians, every insult revenged, 

At the shock of the shields, when the shining-armed 

Hebrews 
Bravely to battle marched under banners of war 
220 To face the foeman. Forthwith then they 
Sharply shot forth showers of arrows, 
Bitter battle-adders from their boAvs of horn. 
Hurled straight from the string ; stormed and raged 

loudly 
The dauntless avengers ; darts were sent whizzing 
225 Into the hosts of the hardy ones. Heroes were angry 
The dwellers in the land, at the dastardly race. 
Strong-hearted they stepped, stern in their mood ; 
On their enemies of old took awful revenge. 
On their mead-weary foes. With the might of their 
hands 
230 Their shining swords from their sheaths they drew 
forth. 
With the choicest of edges the champions they 

smote — 
Furiously felled the folk of Assyria, 
The spiteful despoilers. They spared not a one 
Of the hated host, neither high nor low 
235 Of living men that they might overcome. 

So the kinsmen-companions at the coming of 
morning 
Followed the f oemen, fiercely attacking them, 
Till, pressed and in panic, the proud ones perceived 



JUDITH 127 

That tlie chief and the champions of the chosen 
people 
240 With the swing of the sword swept all before them 
The wise Hebrew warriors. Then word they carried 
To the eldest officers over the camp, 
Ran with the wretched news, arousmg the leaders. 
Fully informed them of the fearful disaster, 
245 Told the merry mead-drinkers of the mornmg en- 
counter 
Of the horrible edge-play. I heard then suddenly 
The slaughter-fated men from sleep awakened 
And toward the bower-tent of the baleful chief, 
Holof ernes, they hastened: in hosts they crowded, 
250 Thickly they thronged. One thought had they only. 
Their lasting loyalty to their lord to show, 
Before in their fury they fell upon him. 
The host of the Hebrews. The whole crowd imagmed 
That the lord of despoilers and the spotless lady 
2C5 Together remained in the gorgeous tent, 
The virtuous virgin and the vicious deceiver. 
Dreadful and direful ; they dared not, however. 
Awaken the warrior, not one of the earls. 
Nor be first to find how had fared through the night 
260 The most churlish of chieftains and the chastest or 
maidens. 

The pride of the Lord. 

Now approached in their strength 

The folk of the Hebrews. They fought remorselessly 
With hard-hammered weapons, with their hdts re- 
quited 



128 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Their strife of long standing, with stained swords 
repaid 

265 Their ancient enmity ; all of Assyria 

Was subdued and doomed that day by their work, 
Its pride bowed low. In panic and fright, 
In terror they stood around the tent of their chief, 
Moody in mind. Then the men all together 

270 In concert clamored and cried aloud. 

Ungracious to God, and gritted their teeth, 
Grinding them in their grief. Then was their glory 

at an end. 
Their noble deeds and daring hopes. Then they 

deemed it wise 
To summon their lord from his sleep, but success 
was denied them. 

275 A loyal liegeman, — ^long had he wavered — 
Desperately dared the door to enter. 
Ventured into the pavilion ; violent need drove him. 
On the bed then he found, in frightful state lying, 
His gold-giver ghastly; gone was his spirit, 

280 No life in him lingered. The liegeman straight fell. 
Trembling with terror, he tore at his hair. 
He clawed at his clothes ; he clamored despairing, 

And to the waiting warriors these words he said. 
As they stood outside in sadness and fear : 

285 i ' Here is made manifest our imminent doom, 
Is clearly betokened that the time is near, 
Pressing upon us with perils and woes, 
When we lose our lives, and lie defeated 
By the hostile host ; here hewn by the sword, 



JUDITH 129 

290 Our lord is beheaded. ' ' With heavy spirits 

They threw their weapons away, and weary in heart, 
Scattered in flight. 

5. The Pursuit 

Then their f oemen pursued them. 
Their grim power growing, until the greatest part 
Of the cowardly band they conquered in battle 
295 On the field of victory. Vanquished and sword-hewn, 
They lay at the will of the wolves, for the watchful 

and greedy 
Fowls to feed upon. Then fled the survivors 
From the shields of their foemen. Sharp on their 

trail came 
The crowd of the Hebrews, covered with victory, 
300 With honors well-earned ; aid then accorded them. 
Graciously granted them, God, Lord Almighty. 
They then daringly, with dripping swords. 
The corps of brave kinsmen, cut them a war-path 
Through the host of the hated ones; they hewed 
with their swords, 
305 Sheared through the shield-wall. They shot fast and 
furiously. 
Men stirred to strife, the stalwart Hebrews, 
The thanes, at that time, thirsting exceedingly. 
Fain for the spear-fight. Then fell in the dust 
The chief est part of the chosen warriors, 
310 Of the staunch and the steadfast Assyrian leaders, 
Of the fated race of the foe. Few of them came back 



130 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Alive to their own land. 

The leaders returned 
Over perilous paths through the piles of the slaugh- 
tered, 
Of reeking corpses ; good occasion there was 

315 -^QY the landsmen to plunder their lifeless foes, 
Their ancient enemies in their armor laid low. 
Of battle spoils bloody, of beautiful trappings. 
Of bucklers and broad-swords, of brown war-hel- 
mets, 
Of glittering jewels. Gloriously had been 

320 In the folk-field their foes overcome. 

By home-defenders, their hated oppressors 
Put to sleep by the sword. Senseless on the path 
Lay those who in life, the loathsomest were 
Of the tribes of the living. 

6. The Spoil 

Then the landsmen all, 
325 Famous of family, for a full month's time, 
The proud curly-locked ones, carried and led 
To their glorious city, gleaming Bethulia, 
Helms and hip-knives, hoary burnies. 
Men's garments of war, with gold adorned, 
330 ^ith more of jewels than men of judgment. 
Keen in cunning might count or estimate ; 
So much success the soldier-troop won. 
Bold under banners and in battle-strife 
Through the counsel of the clever Judith, 



JUDITH 131 

^^^ Maiden high-minded. As meed for her bravery, 
From the field of battle, the bold-hearted earls 
Brought in as her earnings the arms of Holof ernes, 
His broad sword and bloody helmet, likewise his 

breast-armor large, 
Chased with choice red gold, all that the chief of the 

warriors, 
340 rpi^g betrayer, possessed of treasure, of beautiful 

trinkets and heirlooms, 
Bracelets and brilliant gems. All these to the bright 

maid they gave 
As a gift to her, ready in judgment. 

7. The Praise 

For all this Judith now rendered 
Thanks to the Heavenly Host, from whom came all 

her success, 
Greatness and glory on earth and likewise grace in 

heaven, 
345 Paradise as a victorious prize, because she had pure 

belief 
Always in the Almighty ; at the end she had no doubt 
Of the prize she had prayed for long. For this be 

praise to God, 
Glory in ages to come, who shaped the clouds and 

the winds, 
Firmament and far-flung realms, also the fierce- 
raging streams ■ 
350 And the blisses of heaven, through his blessed 

mercy. 



THE PHCENIX 



[Text used: Bright 's Anglo-Saxon Header. The Latin source is also 
printed there. 

Alliterative translations: Pancoast and Spaeth, Early English Poems; 
William Rice Sims, Modem Language Notes, vii, 11-13; Hall, Judith, 
Phce7iix, etc. 

Source: First part, Lactantius, De Ave Phoenice; second part, appli- 
cation of the myth to Christ based on Ambrose and Bede. 

In summing up scholarly opinion up to the date of his own writing 
(1910) Mr. Kennedy says [The Poems of Cynewulf, pp. 58-59]: ''In 
general, however, it may be said that, while the question does not submit 
itself to definite conclusions, the weight of critical opinion leans to the 
side of Cynewulf 's having written the Phaznix, and that the time of its 
coniposition would fall between the Christ and the Elene." 

The first part of the poem is among the most pleasing pieces of descrip- 
tion in Anglo-Saxon.] 



I have heard that there lies a land far hence 

A noble realm well-known unto men, 

In the eastern kingdoms. That corner of the world 

Is not easy of access to every tribe 
5 On the face of the earth, but afar it was placed 

By the might of the Maker from men of sin. 

The plain is beautiful, a place of blessings. 

And filled with the fairest fragrance of earth ; 

Matchless is that island, its maker unequalled, 
i*^ Steadfast and strong of heart, who established that 
land. 

There are often open to the eyes of the blessed, 

132 



THE PECENIX 133 

The happiness of the holy through heaven's door. 
That is a winsome plain ; the woods are green, 
Far stretching under the stars. There no storm of 
rain or snow, 

1^ Nor breath of frost nor blast of fire, 
Nor fall of hail nor hoary frost, ^ 
Nor burning sun nor bitter cold. 
Nor warm weather nor winter showers 
Shall work any woe, but that winsome plain 

20 Is wholesome and unharmed ; in that happy land 
Blossoms are blown. No bold hills nor mountains 
There stand up steep ; no stony cliffs 
Lift high their heads as here with us. 
Nor dales nor glens nor darksome gorges, 

25 ;^or caves nor crags ; nor occur there ever 
Anything rough ; but under radiant skies 
Flourish the fields in flowers and blossoms. 
This lovely land lietli higher 
By twelve full fathoms, as famous writers, 

20 As sages say and set forth in books. 
Than any of the hills that here with us 
Rise bright and high under heaven's stars. 
Peaceful is that plain, pleasant its sunny grove. 
Winsome its woodland glades; never wanes its 
increase 

2^ Nor fails of its fruitage, but fair stand the trees. 
Ever green as God had given command ; 
In winter and summer the woodlands cease not 
To be filled with fruit, and there fades not a leaf ; 
Not a blossom is blighted nor burned by the fire 



134 OLB ENGLISH POEMS 

40 Through all the ages till the end of time, 

Till the world shall fail. When the fury of waters 
Over all the earth in olden times 
Covered the world, then the wondrous plain. 
Unharmed and unhurt by the heaving flood, 

4^ Strongly withstood and stemmed the waves, 
Blest and uninjured through the aid of God : 
Thus blooming it abides till the burning fire 
Of the day of doom when the death-chambers open 
And the ghastly graves shall give up their dead. 

^0 No fearsome foe is found in that land. 
No sign of distress, no strife, no weeping, 
Neither age, nor misery, nor the menace of death. 
Nor failing of life, nor foemen's approach. 
No sin nor trial nor tribulation, 

^^ Nor the want of wealth, nor work for the pauper. 
No sorrow nor sleep, nor sick-bed's pain. 
Nor wintry winds, nor weather's raging. 
Fierce under the heavens ; nor the hard frost 
Causeth discomfort with cold icicles. 

60 Neither hail nor frost fall from the heavens. 
Nor wintry cloud nor water descendeth 
Stirred by the storms ; but streams there flow, 
Wondrously welling and watering the earth. 
Pouring forth in pleasant fountains ; 

6^ The winsome water from the wood's middle 

Each month of the year from the mould of earth. 
Cold as the sea, coursing through the woods, 
Breaketh abundantly. It is the bidding of the Loi'd 
That twelve times yearly that teeming land 



TBE FHCENIX 135 

'^^ The floods shall o'erflow and fill with joy. 
The groves are green with gorgeous bloom, 
And fairest of fruits ; there fail not at all 
The holy treasures of the trees under heaven, 
Nor falleth from the forests the fallow blossoms, 

'^^ The beauty of the trees ; but, bounteously laden. 
The boughs are hanging heavy with fruit 
That is always new in every season. 
In the grassy plain all green appear, 
Gorgeously garnished by God in his might, 

80 The forests fair. Nor fails the wood 

In its pleasing prospect ; a perfume holy 
Enchanteth the land. No change shall it know 
Forever till he ends his ancient plan, 
His work of wisdom as he willed it at first. 

II 

85 In that wood there dwelleth a wondrous bird, 
Fearless in flight, the Phoenix its name. 
Lonely it liveth its life in this place, 
Doughty of soul ; death never seeks him 
In that well-loved wood while the world shall endure. 

^0 He is said to watch the sun on his way 
And to go to meet God 's bright candle. 
That gleaming gem, and gladly to note 
When rises in radiance the most royal of stars 
Up from the east over the ocean ^s waves, 

^5 The famous work of the Father, fair with adorn- 
mentSj 



100 



136 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

The bright sign of God. Buried are the stars, 
Wandering 'neath the waters to the western realms ; 
They grow dim at dawn, and the dark night 
Creepeth wanly away. Then on wings of strength. 
Proud on his pinions he placeth his gaze 
Eagerly on the streams and stares over the water 
Where the gleam of heaven gliding shall come 
'er the broad ocean from the bright east. 
So the wondrous bird at the water's spring 

10^ Bideth in beauty, in the brimming streams. 
Twelve times there the triumphant bird 
Bathes in the brook ere the beacon appears, 
The candle of heaven, and the cold stream 
Of the joy-inspiring springs he tasteth 

110 From the icy burn at every bath. 

Then after his sport in the springs at dawn. 
Filled full of pride he flies to a tree 
Where most easily he may in the eastern realm 
Behold the journey, when the jewel of heaven 

11^ Over the shimmering sea, the shining light, 
Gleameth in glory. Garnished is the land, 
The Avorld made beautiful, when the blessed gem 
Illumines the land, the largest of stars 
In the circle of the seas sends forth its rays. 

1-0 Soon as the sun over the salt streams 

Eises in glory, then the gray-feathered bird 
Blithely rises from the beam where he rested ; 
Fleet-Avinged he f areth and flieth on high ; 
Singing and caroling he soareth to heaven. 

125 Fair is the famous fowl in his bearing 



TEE PHCENIX 137 

With joy in his breast, in bliss exulting; 
He warbles his song more wondrously sweet 
And choicer of note than ever child of man 
Heard beneath the heavens since the High King, 

130 The worker of wonders, the world established. 
Heaven and earth. His hymn is more beautiful 
And fairer by far than all forms of song-craft ; 
Its singing surpasseth the sweetest of music. 
To the song can compare not the sound of trumpet, 

135 ;^or of horn nor of harp, nor of heroes ' voices 
On all the earth, nor of organ's sound. 
Nor singing song nor swan's fair feathers, 
Nor of any good thing that God created 
As a joy to men in this mournful world ! 

140 Thus he singeth and carolleth crowned with joy. 
Until the bright sun in a southern sky 
Sinks to its setting; then silent he is 
And listeneth and boweth and bendeth his head. 
Sage in his thoughts, and thrice he shaketh 

145 His feathers for flight ; the fowl is hushed. 
Twelve equal times he telleth the hours 
Of day and night. 'Tis ordained in this way. 
And willed that the dweller of the woods should 

have joy. 
Pleasure in that plain and its peaceful bliss, 

150 Taste delights and life and the land's enjoyments. 
Till he waiteth a thousand winters of life. 
The aged warden of the ancient wood. 

Then the gray-feathered fowl in the fullness of 
years 



138 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Is grievously stricken. From tiie green earth he 
fleeth, 

155 The favorite of birds, from the flowering land, 
And beareth his flight to a f ar-oif realm. 
To a distant domain where dwelleth no man, 
As his native land. Then the noble fowl 
Becometh ruler over the race of birds, 

160 Distinguished in their tribe, and for a time he dwell- 
eth 
With them in the waste. Then on wings of strength, 
He flieth to the west, full of winters. 
Swift on his wing; in swarms then press, 
The birds about their lord ; all long to serve him 

165 And to live in loyalty to their leader brave, 
Until he seeketh out the Syrian land 
With mighty train. Then turneth the pure one 
Sharply away, and in the shade of the forest 
He dwells, in the grove, in the desert place, 

i^'o Concealed and hid from the host of men. 
There high on a bough he abides alone, 
Under heaven's roof, hard by the roots 
Of a far stretching tree, which the Phoenix is called 
By the nations of earth from the name of that bird. 

175 The King of glory has granted that tree, 

The Holy One of heaven, as I have heard said, 
That it among all the other trees 
That grow in the glorious groves of the world 
Bloometh most brightly. No blight may hurt it, 

180 ]^or work it harm, but while the world stands 
It shall be shielded from the shafts of evil. 



THE FRCENIX 139 



III 



When tlie wind is at rest and the weather is fair, 

And the holy gem of heaven is shining, 

And clouds have flown and the forces of water 

185 Are standing stilled, and the storms are all 

Assuaged and soothed : from the south there gleam- 

eth 
The warm weather-candle, welcomed by men. 
In the boughs the bird then buildeth its home, 
Beginneth its nest; great is its need 

190 rj^Q work in haste, with the highest wisdom. 
That his old age he may give to gain new life, 
A fair young spirit. Then far and near, 
He gathers together to his goodly home 
The winsomest herbs and the wood's sweet blos- 
soms, 

195 The fair perfumes and fragrant shoots 

Which were placed in the world by the wondrous 

Lord, 
By the Father of all, on the face of the earth. 

As a pleasure forever to the proud race of men — 
The beauty of blossoms. There he beareth away 

200 To that royal tree the richest of treasure. 
There the wild fowl in the waste land 
On the highest beams buildeth his house. 
On the loftiest limbs, and he liveth there 
In that upper room ; on all sides he surrounds 

205 In that shade unbroken his body and wings 
With blessed fragrance and fairest of blooms. 



140 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

The most gorgeous of green things that grow on 
the earth- 
He await eth his journey when the gem of heaven 
In the summer season, the sun at its hottest, 

210 Shineth over the shade and shapeth its destiny, 
Gazeth over the world. Then it groweth warm, 
His house becomes heated by the heavenly gleam ; 
The herbs wax hot ; the house steameth 

"With the sweetest of savors ; in the sweltering heat, 

215 In the furious flame, the fowl with his nest 

Is embraced by the bale-fire ; then burning seizeth 
The disheartened one 's house ; in hot haste riseth 
The fallow flame, and the Phoenix it reacheth. 
In fullness of age. Then the fire eateth, 

220 Burneth the body, while borne is the soul. 
The fated one 's spirit, where flesh and bone 
Shall burn in the blaze. But it is born anew, 
Attaineth new life at the time allotted. 
When the ashes again begin to assemble, 

225 To fall in a heap when the fire is spent, 
To cling in a mass, then clean becometh 
That bright abode — burnt by the fire 
The home of the bird. When the body is cold 
And its frame is shattered and the fire slumbers 

230 In the funeral flame, then is found the likeness 
Of an apple that newly in the ashes appeareth. 
And waxeth into a worm wondrously fair. 
As if out from an egg it had opened its way. 
Shining from the shell. In the shade it groweth, 

235 Till at first it is formed like a fledgling eagle. 



TEE FECENIX 141 

A fair young fowl ; then further still 

It increaseth in stature, till in strength it is like 

To a full-grown eagle, and after that 

With feathers fair as at first it was, 

240 Brightly blooming. Then the bird grows strong, 
Regains its brightness and is born again, 
Sundered from sin, somewhat as if 
One should fetch in food, the fruits of the earth. 
Should haul it home at harvest time, 

245 The fairest of cor ere the frosts shall come 

At the time of reaping, lest the rain in showers 
Strike down and destroy it ; a stay they have ready 
A feast of food, when frost and snow 
With their mighty coursing cover the earth 

250 In winter weeds ; the wealth of man 

From those fair fruits shall flourish again 
Through the nature of grain, which now in the 

ground 
Is sown as clear seed; then the sun^s warm rays 
In time of spring sprouts the life germ, 

255 Awakes the world's riches so that wondrous fruits. 
The treasures of earth, by their own kind 
Are brought forth again : that bird changeth like- 
wise. 
Old in his years, to youth again, 
With fair new flesh ; no food nor meat 

260 He eateth on the earth save only a taste 
Of fine honey-dew which f alleth often 
In the middle of night ; the noble fowl 
Thus feedeth and groweth till he flieth again 
To his own domain, to his ancient dwelling. 



142 • OLD ENGLISH POEMS 



IV 



265 ^hen the bird springs reborn from its bower of 
herbs, 
Proud of pinion, pleased with new life. 
Young and full of grace, from the ground he then 
Skillfully piles up the scattered parts 
Of the graceful body, gathers the bones, 

270 Which the funeral fire aforetime devoured ; 

Then brings altogether the bones and the ashes. 
The remnant of the flames he arranges anew. 
And carefully covers that carrion spoil 
With fairest flowers. Then he fares away, 

275 Seeking the sacred soil of his birthplace. 

With his feet he fastens to the fire 's grim leavings. 
Clasps them in his claws and his country again. 
The sun-bright seat, he seeks in joy. 
His own native-land. All is renewed — 

28^ His body and feathers, in the form that was his. 
When placed in the pleasant plain by his Maker, 
By gracious God. Together he bringeth 
The bones of his body which were burned on the 

pyre, 
Which the funeral flames before had enveloped, 

285 And also the ashes ; then all in a heap 

This bird then burieth the bones and embers. 

His ashes on the island. Then his eyes for the first 

time 
Catch sight of the sun, see in the heaven 
That flaming gem, the joy of the firmament 



THE PHCENIX 143 

290 Which beams from the east over the ocean billows. 
Before is that fowl fair in its plumage, 
Bright colors glow on its gorgeous breast, 
Behind its head is a hue of green, 
With brilliant crimson cunningly blended. 

295 The feathers of its tail are fairly divided : 

Some brown, some flaming, some beautifully flecked 
With brilliant spots. At the back, his feathers 
Are gleaming w^hite ; green is his neck 
Both beneath and above, and the bill shines 

300 ^g glass or a gem; the jaws glisten 

Within and without. The eye ball pierces. 
And strongly stares with a stone-like gaze. 
Like a clear-wrought gem that is carefully set 
Into a golden goblet by a goodly smith. 

305 Surrounding its neck like the radiant sun. 

Is the brightest of rings braided with feathers ; 
Its belly is wondrous with wealth of color. 
Sheer and shining. A shield extends 
Brilliantly fair above the back of the fowl. 

310 The comely legs are covered with scales; 

The feet are bright yellow. The fowl is in beauty 
Peerless, alone, though like the peacock 
Delightfully wrought, as the writings relate. 
It is neither slow in movement, nor sluggish in mien, 

315 ;^or slothful nor inert as some birds are. 
Who flap their wings in weary flight, 
But he is fast and fleet, and floats through the air. 
Marvelous, winsome, and wondrously marked. 
Blessed is the God who gave him that blisc ! 



144 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

320 When at last it leaves the land, and journeys 
To hunt the fields of its former home, 
As the fowl flietli many folk view it. 
It pleases in passing the people of earth. 
Who are seen assembling from south and north ; 

325 They come from the east, they crowd from the west. 
Faring from afar ; the folk throng to see 
The grace that is given by God in his mercy 
To this fairest fowl, which at first received 
From gracious God the greatest of natures 

330 And a beauty unrivalled in the race of birds. 
Then over the earth all men marvel 
At the freshness and fairness and make it famous 

in writings ; 
With their hands they mould it on the hardest of 

marble. 
Which through time and tide tells the multitudes 

335 Of the rarity of the flying one. Then the race of fowls 
On every hand enter in hosts, 
Surge in the paths, praise it in song, 
Magnify the stern-hearted one in mighty strains ; 
And so the holy one they hem in in circles 

340 As it flies amain. The Phoenix is in the midst 
Pressed by their hosts. The people behold 
And watch with wonder how the willing bands 
Worship the wanderer, one after the other. 
Mightily proclaim and magnify their King, 

345 Their beloved Lord. They lead joyfully 
The noble one home ; but now the wild one 
Flies away fast; no followers may come 



THE PHCENIX 145 

From the happy host, when their head takes wing 
Far from this land to find his home. 

V 

So the dauntless fowl after his fiery death 

Happily hastens to his home again, 

To his beauteous abode. The birds return. 

Leaving their leader, with lonely hearts. 

Again to their land ; then their gracious lord 

Is young in his courts. The King Almighty, 

God alone knows its nature by sex, 

Male or female ; no man can tell. 

No living being save the Lord only 

How wise and wondrous are the ways of the bird. 

And the fair decree for the fowl's creation! 

There the happy one his home may enjoy. 

With its welling waters and woodland groves. 

May live in peace through the passing of winters 

A thousand in number ; then he knows again 

The ends of his life ; over him is laid 

The funeral fire : yet he finds life again. 

And wondrously awakened he waxes in strength. 

He droops not nor dreads his death therefore. 

The awful agony, since alw^ays he know^s 

That the lap of the flame brings life afresh, 

Peace after death, when undaunted once more 

Fully feathered and formed as a bird 

Out of the ashes up he can spring, 

Safe under the heavens. To himself he is both 

A father and a son, and finds himself also 



146 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Ever the heir to his olden life. 

The Almighty Maker of man has granted 

That though the fire shall fasten its fetters upon 

him, 
He is given new life, and lives again 
380 Fashioned with feathers as aforetime he was. 

VI 

So each living man the life eternal 

Seeks for himself after sorest cares ; 

That through the darksome door of death he may 

find 
The goodly grace of God and enjoy 

385 Forever and aye unending bliss 

As reward for his Avork — the wonders of heaven. 
The nature of this fowl is not unlike 
That of those chosen as children of God, 
And it shows men a sign of how sacred joys 

390 Granted by God they ma}^ gain in trial — 

Hold beneath the heavens through his holy grace. 
And abide in rapture in the realms above. 

We have found that the faithful Father created 
Man and woman through his wondrous might. 

395 At first in the fairest fields of his earth 
He set these sons on a soil unblemished. 
In a pleasant place. Paradise named. 
Since they lacked no delight as long as the pair 
Wisely heeded the Holy word 
In their new home. Therp hatred came. 
The old foe 's envy, who offered them food. 



400 



THE PE(ENIX 147 

The fruit of tlie tree, which in folly they tried ; 

Both ate of the apple against the order of God, 

Tasted the forbidden. Then bitter became 

Their woe after eating and for their heirs as well — 

For sons and daughters a sorrowful feast. 

Grievously were punished their greedy teeth 

For that greatest of guilt; God's wrath they knew 

And bitter remorse ; hence bearing their crimes, 

Their sons must suffer for the sin of their parents 

Against God's commands. Hence, grieved in soul 

They shall lose the delights of the land of bliss 

Through envy of the serpent who deceived our elders 

In direful wise in days of yore 

Through his wicked heart, so that they went far 

hence 
To the dale of death to doleful life 
In a sorrowful home. Hidden from them 
Was the blessed life; and the blissful plain. 
By the fiend's cunning, was fastened close 
For many winters, till the Maker of wonders. 
The King of mankind. Comforter of the weary, 
Our only Hope, hither came down 
To the godly band and again held it open. 

VII 

His advent is likened by learned writers 
In their works of wisdom and words of truth. 
To the flight of that fowl, when forth he goes 
From his own country and becometh old, 
Weighed with winters, weary in mind. 



148 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

And finds in wandering the forest wood 

430 Where a bower he builds : with brandies and herbs, 
With rarest of twigs, he raises his dwelling. 
His nest in the wood. Great need he hath 
That he gain again his gladsome youth 
In the flame of fire that he may find new life, 

4^5 Eenew his youth, and his native home. 
His sunbright seat, he may seek again 
After his bath of fire. So abandoned before us 
The first of our parents their fairest plain. 
Their happy home, their hope of glory, 

440 To fare afar on a fearful journey, 

Where hostile hands harshly beset them ; 
Evil ones often injured them sorely. 

Yet many men marked well the Lord, 
Heeded his behests in holy customs, 

445 In glorious deeds, so that God, their Eedeemer, 
The high Heaven-King hearkened to them. 
That is the high tree wherein holy men 
Hide their home from the harm of their foe 
And know no peril, neither with poison 

450 ;^or with treacherous token in time of evil. 
There God's warrior works him a nest. 
With doughty deeds dangers avoids. 
He distributes alms to the stricken and needy. 
He tells graceless men of the mercy of God, 

4^^ Of the Father's help; he hastens forth. 
Lessening the perils of this passing life, 
Its darksome deeds, and does God's will 
With bravery in his breast. His bidding he seeks 



THE PECENIX 149 

In prayer, with pure heart and pliant knee 

460 Bent to the earth; all evil is banished, 
All grim offences by his fear of God ; 
Happy in heart he hopes full well 
To do good deeds : the Redeemer is his shield 
In his varied walks, the Wielder of victory, 

465 Joy-giver to people. Those plants are the ones, 
The flowers of fruit, which the fowl of wildness 
Finds in this world from far and wide 
And brings to his abode, where it builds a nest 
With firmness of heart against fear and hatred. 

470 So in that place God's soldiers perform 

With courage and might the Creator's commands. 
Then they gain them glory : they are given rewards 
By the gracious God for their goodness of heart. 
From those is made a pleasant dwelling 

475 As reward for their works, in the wondrous city ; 
Since they held in their hearts the holy teachings. 
Serving their Lord with loving souls 
By day and by night — and never ceasing — 
With fervent faith preferring their Lord 

480 Above worldly wealth. They ween not, indeed, 

That long they will live in this life that is fleeting. 

A blessed earl earns by his virtue 
A home in heaven with the highest King, 
And comfort forever,— this he earns ere the close 

485 Of his days in the world, when Death, the warrior, 
Greedy for warfare, girded with weapons, 
Seeketh each life and sendeth quickly 
Into the bosom of the earth those deserted bodies 



150 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Lorn of their souls, where long they shall bide 

490 Covered with clay till the coming of the fire. 
Many of the sons of men into the assembly 
Are led by the leaders ; the Lord of angels, 
The Father Almighty, the Master of hosts, 
"Will judge with justice the joyful and the sad. 

495 Then mortal men in a mass shall arise 
As the righteous King, the Euler of angels. 
The Savior of souls said it must be. 
Gave command by the trumpet to the tribes of the 

world. 
Then ends darkest death for those dear to the Lord ; 

500 Through the grace of God the good shall depart 
In clamoring crowds when this cruel world 
Shall burst into flames, into baleful fire ; 
The earth shall end. Then all shall have 
Most frightful fear, when the fire crashes over 

so^ Earth's fleeting fortunes, when the flame eats up 
Its olden treasures, eagerly graspeth 
On goodly gold and greedily consumes 
The land's adornments. Then dawns in light 
In that awesome hour for all of men, 

510 The fair and sacred symbol of the fowl, 

AVhen the mighty Ruler shall arouse all men, 
Shall gather together from the grave the bones. 
The limbs of the body, those left from the flame. 
Before the knee of Christ : the King in splendor 

515 From his lofty seat shall give light to the holy. 
The gem of glory. It will be joyous and gladsome 
To the servers of Truth in that sad time. 



lEB PECENIX 151 

VIII 

There the bodies, bathed of their sins, 
Shall go in gladness ; again shall their spirits 

520 To their bony frames, and the fire shall burn. 
Mounting high to heaven. Hot shall be to many 
That awful flame, when every man. 
Unblemished or sinful, his soul in his body, 
From the depths of his grave seeks the doom of 
God, 

525 Frightfully afraid. The fire shall save men. 
Burning all sin. So shall the blessed 
After weary wandering, with their works be clothed. 
With the fruit of their deeds : fair are these roots. 
These winsome floAvers that the wild fowl 

530 Collects to lay on his lovely nest 

In order that easily his own fair home 
May burn in the sun, and himself along with it. 
And so after the fire he finds him new life ; 
So every man in all the world 

535 Shall be covered with flesh, fair and comely. 
And always young, if his own choice leads him 
To work God's will; then the world's high King 
Mighty at the meeting mercy will grant him. 
Then the hymns shall rise high from the holy band, 

540 The chosen souls shall chant their songs. 
In praise of the powerful Prince of men, 
Strain upon strain, and strengthened and fragrant 
Of their godly works they shall wend to glory. 
Then are men's spirits made spotless and bright 



152 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

545 Through the flame of the fire — refined and made 
pure. 
In all the earth let not anyone ween 
That I wrought this lay with lying speech, 
With hated word-craft ! Hear ye the wisdom 
Of the hymns of Job ! With heart of joy 

^^^ And spirit brave, he boldly spoke; 

With wondrous sanctity that word he said : 
* * I feel it a fact in the fastness of my soul 
That one day in my nest death I shall know. 
And weary of heart woefully go hence, 

^^^ Compassed with clay, on my closing journey, 
Mournful of mind, in the moldy earth. 
And through the gift of God I shall gain once more 
Like the Phoenix fowl, a fair new life, 
On the day of arising from ruinous death, 

560 Delights with God, where the loving throng 
Are exalting their Lord. I look not at all 
Ever to come to the end of that life 
Of light and bliss, though my body shall lie 
In its gruesome grave and grow decayed, 

S65 A joy to worms ; for the Judge of the world 
Shall save my soul, and send it to glory 
After the time of death. I shall trust forever 
With steadfast breast, in the Strength of angels ; 
Firm is my faith in the Father of all.'' 

570 Thus sang the sage his song of old. 
Herald to God, with gladsome heart: 
How he Avas lifted to life eternal. 

Then we may truly interpret the token clearly 



THE PECENIX I53 

Which the glorious bird gave through its burning. 

^^^ It gathers together the grim bone-remnants, 
The ashes and embers all into one place 
After the surge of the fire ; the fowl then seizes it 
With its feet and flies to the Father's garden 
Towards the sun; for a time there he sojourns, 

580 YoT many winters, made in new wise, 

All of him young ; nor may any there yearn 
To do him menace with deeds of malice. 
So may after death by the Eedeemer 's might 
Souls go with bodies, bound together, 

^85 Fashioned in loveliness, most like to that fowl. 
In rich array, with rare perfumes, 
Where the steadfast sun streams its light 
'er the sacred hosts in the happy city. 

IX 

Then high over the roofs the holy Ruler 
^^0 Shines on the souls of the saved and the loyal. 
Eadiant fowls follow around him 
Brightest of birds, in bliss exulting. 
The chosen and joyous ones join him at home, 
Forever and ever, where no evil is wrought 
^^^ By the foulest fiend in his fickle deceit ; 

But they shall live in lasting light and beauty, 
As the Phoenix fowl, in the faith of God. 
Every one of men's works in that wondrous home, 
In that blissful abode, brightly shines forth 
600 In the peaceful presence of the Prince eternal. 
Who resembles the sun. A sacred crown 



154 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Most richly wrought with radiant gems, 

High over the head of each holy soul 

Glitters refulgent; their foreheads gleam, 

Covered with glory ; the crown of God 

Embellishes beautifully the blessed host 

With light in that life, where lasting joy 

Is fresh and young and fades not away. 

But they dwell in bliss, adorned in beauty. 

With fairest ornaments, with the Father's angels. 

They see no sorrow in those sacred courts. 

No sin nor suffering nor sad work-days. 

No burning hunger, nor bitter thirst. 

No evil nor age : but ever their King 

Granteth his grace to the glorious band 

That loves its Lord and everlasting King, 

That glorifies and praises the power of God. 

That host round the holy high-set throne 

Makes then melody in mighty strains ; 

The blessed saints blithely sing 

In unison with angels, orisons to the Lord : 

^^ Peace to thee, God, thou proud Monarch, 
Thou Euler reigning with righteousness and skill; 
Thanks for thy goodly gifts to us all ; 
Mighty and measureless is thy majesty and strength. 
High and holy ! The heavens, Lord, 
Are fairly filled, Father Almighty, 
Glory of glories, in greatness ruling 
Among angels above and on earth beneath ! 
Guard us, God of creation; thou governest all 
things ! 



TEE FRCEI^IX 155 

Lord 01 the highest heavens above ! ' ^ 
So shall the saints sing his praises, 

Those free from sin, in that fairest of cities, 

Proclaim his power, the righteous people, 
635 The host in heaven hail the Redeemer : 

Honor without end is only for him, 

Not ever at all had he any birth, 

Any beginning of bliss, though he was born in the 
world. 

On this earth in the image of an innocent child , 
640 With unfailing justice and fairest judgments. 

High above the heavens in holiness he dwelt ! 

Though he must endure the death of the cross. 

Bear the bitter burden of men. 

When three days have passed after the death of his 
body, 
645 jje regains new life through the love of God, 

Through the aid of the Father. So the Phoenix be- 
tokens 

In his youthful state, the strength of Christ, 

Who in a wondrous wise awakes from the ashes 

Unto the life of life, with limbs begirded ; 
6^^ So the Savior sought to aid us 

Through the loss of his body, life without end. 

Likewise that fowl filleth his wings. 

Loads them with sweet and scented roots, 

With winsome flowers and flies away; 
65^ These are the words, wise men tell us, 

The songs of the holy ones whose souls go to heaven. 

With the loving Lord to live for aye. 



156 0^^ ENGLISH POEMS 

In bliss of bliss, where they bring to God 

Their words and their works, wondrous in savor, 
^60 As a precious gift, in that glorious place, 

In that life of light. 

Lasting be the praise 

Through the world of worlds and wondrous honor, 

And royal power in the princely realm. 

The kingdom of heaven. He is King indeed 
665 Of the lands below and of lordly majesty, 

Encircled with honor in that city of beauty. 

He has given us leave lucis auctor, 

That here we may merueri 

As reward for good gaudia in celo, 
670 That all of us may maxima regna 

Seek and sit on sedihus altis. 

Shall live a life lucis et pads, 

Shall own a home almae letitiae, 

Know blessings and bliss ; hlandem and mitem 
675 Lord they shall see sine fine, 

And lift up a song lauda perenne 

Forever with the angels. Alleluia! 

680. This and the following lines are imitated from the original in which 
the first half line, in Old English, alliterates with the second half line, in 
Latin. The Latin is here retained. The meaning of the lines is this : "The 
Author of light has given us leave that we may here merit as a reward for 
good, joy in heaven, that all of us may seek the mighty kingdom and sit on the 
high seats, may live a life of light and peace, may own a home of tender 
joy ; may see the merciful and nild Lord for time without end, and may 
lift up a song in eternal praise, forever with the angels. Alleluia !" 



THE GRAVE 

[Text used: Kluge, Angelsacltsisches Leschucli, reprinted from Arnold 
Schroeer, Anglia, v, 289. 

Translation: Longfellow. Discussion of this translation in ArcMv fur 
das Studium der neueren Sprache, xxix, 205. 

It is probably the latest in date of any of the Anglo-Saxon poemg.] 

Before thou wast born, there was built thee a house ; 

For thee was a mould meant ere thy mother bore 
thee ; 

They have not made it ready nor reckoned its depth ; 

No one has yet learned how long it shall be. 
5 I point out thy path to the place thou shalt be ; 

Now I shall measure thee, and the mould afterwards. 

Thy house is not highly timbered. 

It is unhigh and low ; when thou lyest therein. 

The bottom and side boards shall bind thee near : 
10 Close above thy breast is builded the roof. 

Thou shalt dwell full cold in the clammy earth. 

Full dim and dismal that den is to live in. 

Doorless is that house, and is dark within; 

Down art thou held there and death hath the key. 
15 Loathly is that house of earth and horrid to live in. 

There thou shalt tarry and be torn by worms. 

Thus thou art laid, and leavest thy friends ; 

Thou hast never a comrade who will come to thee. 

Who will hasten to look how thou likest thy house. 

157 



158 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

20 Or ever will undo thy door for thee. 

and after thee descend; 

For soon thou art loathsome and unlovely to see: 

From the crown of thy head shall the hair be lost ; 

Thy locks shall fall and lose their freshness ; 
2^ No longer is it fair for the fingers to stroke. 



3. POEMS FROM THE CHRONICLE 



THE BATTLE OF BRUNNANBURG 

[Critical edition: Sedgefield, Tlie Battle of Maldon and Six Short 
Poems from the Saxon Chronicle, Boston, 1904, Belles Lettres Edition, 

Translation: Tennyson; Pancoast and Spaeth, Early English Poems, 
p. 81. 

Date: It appears in the Chronicle under the year 937. 

Danes living north of the Humber conspired with their kinsmen in 
Ireland under the two Olafs, together with the Scottish king Constan- 
tino and the Strathelyde Britons under their king Eugenius, against 
^thelstan, king of Wessex. The allies met in the south of Northumbria. 
^thelstan encountered them at Brunnanburg and defeated them. 

The site of Brunnanburg has not been identified. The best claim is 
probably for Bramber, near Preston, in the neighborhood of which, in 
1840, was found a great hoard of silver ingots and coins, none later than 
950, This was possibly the war chest of the confederacy. Byngesmere 
has not been identified. 

More than half the half-lines are exact copies from other Anglo- 
Saxon poems.] 

Here ^tlielstan the king, of earls the lord, 
Bracelet-giver of barons and his brother as well, 
Edmund the ^theling, honor eternal 
Won at warfare by the wielding of swords 
^ Near Brunnanburg ; they broke the linden-^wall, 
Struck down the shields v/ith the sharp work of ham- 
mers. 
The heirs of Edward, as of old had been taught 
By their kinsmen who clashed in conflict often 
Defending their firesides against foemen invaders, 
10 Their hoards and their homes. The hated ones per- 
ished, 

159 



160 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Soldiers of Scotland and seamen-warriors — 
Fated they fell. The field was wet 
With the blood of the brave, after the bright sun 
Had mounted at morning, the master of planets 

15 Glided over the ground, God's candle clear, 
The Lord's everlasting, till the lamp of heaven 
Sank to its setting. Soldiers full many 
Lay mangled by spears, men of the Northland, 
Shamefully shot o'er their shields, and Scotchmen, 

-0 Weary and war-sated. The West-Saxons forth 
All during the day with their daring men 
Followed the tracks of their foemen's troops. 
From behind they hewed and harried the fleeing. 
With sharp-ground sv/ords. Never shunned the Mer- 
cians 

25 The hard hand-play of hero or warrior 
Who over the oar-path with Anlaf did come, 
Who sailed on a ship and sought the land, 
Fated in fight. , 

Five chieftains lay 
Killed in the conflict, kings full youthful, 

20 Put to sleep by the sword, and seven also 
Of the earls of Anlaf, and others unnumbered, 
Of sailors and Scotchmen. Sent forth in flight then 
Was the prince of the Northmen, pressed hard by 

need. 
To the stem of his ship ; with a staunch little band 

25 To the high sea he hurried ; in haste the king sailed 
Over the fallow flood, fled for his life. 

31. Anlaf: the Old English form of "Olaf." 



THE BATTLE OF BBUNNANBUEG 161 

Also the sage one sorrowfully northward 

Crept to his kinsmen, Constantinus, 

The hoary war-hero ; for him was small need 
40 To boast of the battle-play ; the best of his kinsmen 

And friends had fallen on the field of battle, 

Slain at the strife, and his son left behind 

On the field of fight, felled and wounded. 

Young at the battle. No boast dared he make 
4^ Of strife and of sword-play, the silver-haired leader. 

Full of age and of evil, nor had Anlaf the more. 

With their vanquished survivors no vaunt could they 
make 

That in works of war their worth was unequalled. 

In the fearful field, in the flashing of standards, 
^0 In the meeting of men, and the mingling of spears, 

And the war-play of weapons, when they had waged 
their battle 

Against the heirs of Edward on the awful plain. 

Now departed the Northmen in their nailed ships. 

Dreary from dart-play on Dyngesmere. ^^^. » - 
^^ Over the deep water to Dublin they sailed, ^ 

Broken and baffled back to Ireland. 

So, too, the brothers both went together. 

The King and the ^theling, to their kinsmen's 
home. 

To the wide land of Wessex — warrior's exultant. 
^0 To feast on the fallen on the field they left 

The sallow-hued spoiler, the swarthy raven, 

52. Heirs of Edward: the English, descendants of Edward the Elder. 
58. The JEtheling : Edmund the ^theling (or prince) of line 3. 



162 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 



Horned of beak, and the hoary-backed 

White-tailed eagle to eat of the carrion, 

And the greedy goshawk, and that gray beast, 

65 The wolf in the wood. Not worse was the slaughtei 
Ever on this island at any time, 
Or more folk felled before this strife 
With the edge of the sword, as is said in old books, 
In ancient authors, since from the east hither 

70 The Angles and Saxons eagerly sailed 
Over the salt sea in search of Britain, — 
Since the crafty warriors conquered the Welshmen 
And, greedy for glory, gained them the land. 



THE BATTLE OF MALDON 

[Critical edition: Sedgefield, The Battle of Maldon and Six Short 
Poems from the Saxon Chronicle, Boston, 1904, Belles Lettres Edition. 

Date: It appears in the Anglo-Saxon (Jlironicle for 991. 

* * The Battle of Maldon treats not of legendary heroes of the Germanic 
races but of an actual historic personage, an English hero and patriot 
fallen in battle against a foreign invader a very short time before the 
poem was made. A single event in contemporary history is here described 
with hardly suppressed emotion by one who knew his hero and loved him.> 
There is none of the allusiveness and excursiveness of the Beowulf, we 
have here not a member of an epic cycle, but an independent song. Very 
striking is the absence of ornament from the Battle of Maldon; all is 
plain, blunt, and stern." — Sedgefield, The Battle of Maldon, pp. vi-vii.] 

was broken; 

He bade the young barons abandon their horses, 
To drive them afar and dash quickly forth, 
In their hands and brave heart to put all hope of 
success. 
^ The kinsman of Offa discovered then first 

That the earl would not brook dishonorable bearing. 
He held in his hand the hawk that he loved, 
Let him fly to the fields ; to the fight then he stepped ; 
By this one could know that the knight was unwill- 
ing 
1^ To weaken in war, when his weapons he seized. 
Edric wished also to aid his chief, 
His folk-lord in fight ; forward he bore 

5. Offa's kinsman is not named. Oflfa himself is mentioned in line 286. 
8. Is the fact that the earl is amusing himself with a falcon just before 
the battle to be taken as a sign of contempt for the enemy? 

163 



154 ^^^ ENGLISH POEMS 

His brand to the battle ; a brave heart he had 
So long as he held locked in his hand 

15 His board and his broad sword ; his boast he made 
good, 
Fearless to fight before his lord. 

Then Byrhtnoth began to embolden the warriors ; 
He rode and counseled them, his comrades he taught 
How they should stand in the stronghold's defence, 

20 Bade them to bear their bucklers correctly. 

Fast by their hands without fear in their hearts. 
When the folk by fair words he had fired with zeal, 
He alighted in a crowd of his loyal comrades. 
Where he felt that his friends were most faithful 
and true. 

25 Then he stood on the strand; sternly the messen- 
ger 
Of the Vikings called in vaunting words. 
Brought him the boast of the bloody seamen, 
The errand to the earl, at the edge of the water : 
"I am sent to thee by seamen bold; 

30 They bade me summon thee to send them quickly 
Eings for a ransom, and rather than fight 
It is better for you to bargain with gold 
Than that we should fiercely fight you in battle. 
It is futile to fight . if you fill our demands ; 

35 If you give us gold we will grant you a truce. 
If commands thou wilt make, who art mightiest of 

warriors. 
That thy folk shall be free from the foemen's attack, 
Shall give of their wealth at the will of the seamen, 



TRE BATTLE OF MALDON 165 

A treasure for tribute, with a truce in return, 

'io We will go with the gold again to our ships, 

We will sail to the sea and vouchsafe to you peace. ' ' 
Byrhtnoth burst forth, his buckler he grasped, 
His spear he seized, and spoke in words 
Full of anger and ire, and answer he gave : 

^^ ^^Dost thou hear, oh seamen, what our heroes say! 
Spears they will send to the sailors as tribute. 
Poisoned points and powerful swords. 
And such w^eapons of war as shall win you no bat- 
tles. 
Envoy of Vikings, your vauntings return, 

^0 Fare to thy folk w^ith a far sterner message, 

That here staunchly stands with his steadfast troops. 
The lord that will fight for the land of his fathers, 
For the realm of ^thelred, my royal chief. 
For his folk and his fold ; fallen shall lie 

^^ The heathen at shield-play ; Shameful I deem it 
With our treasure as tribute that you take to your 

ships. 
Without facing a fight, since thus far hither 
You have come and encroached on our king's do- 
main. 
You shall not so easily earn our treasure ; 

6^ You must prove your power with point and sword 
edge. 
With grim war grip ere we grant you tribute. ' ' 

He bade then his band to bear forth their shields. 
Until they arrived at the river bank. 
The waters prevented the warriors' encounter; 



IQf^ OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

65 The tide flowed in, the flood after the ebb, 
Locked up the land ; too long it seemed 
Until they could meet and mingle their spears. 
By Panta's stream they stood in array, 
The East Saxon army and the eager shield-war- 
riors ; 

70 Each troop was helpless to work harm on the other, 
Save the few who were felled by a flight of arrows. 
The flood receded ; the sailors stood ready, 
All of the Vikings eager for victory. 
Byrhtnoth bade the bridge to be defended, 

75 The brave-hearted warrior, by "Wulfstan the bold 
With his crowd of kinsmen ; he was Ceola 's son. 
And he felled the first of the foemen who stepped 
On the bridge, the boldest of the band of men. 
There waited with Wulfstan the warriors un- 

daunted, 

80 ^If here and Maccus, men of courage ; 

At the ford not a foot would they flee the encounter. 
But close in conflict they clashed with the foe. 
As long as they wielded their w^eapons with 

strength. 
As soon as they saw and perceived it clearly, 

85 How fiercely fought was the defense of the bridge. 
The treacherous tribe in trickery asked 
That they be allowed to lead their hosts 
For a closer conflict, to cross over the ford. 

65. "The Panta, or Blackwater as it is now called, opens at Maiden into 
a large estuary, where a strong tide runs," — Sedgefield. 

70. The approaches to the bridge were covered with water at high tide; 
hence the Norsemen feared to cross at high tide and asked for a truce. 



100 



THE BATTLE OF MALDON 167 

Then the earl, too eager to enter the fight, 
^0 Allowed too much land to the loathed pirates. 
Clearly then called over the cold water 
Byrhthelm's son; the soldiers listened: 

"Room is now made for you; rush quickly here 
Forward to the fray ; fate will decide 
9^ Into whose power shall pass this place of battle. ' ' 

Went then the battle-wolves — of w^ater they 
recked not — 
The pirate warriors west over Panta; 
Over the bright waves they bore their shields ; 
The seamen stepped to the strand with their lindens. 

In ready array against the raging hosts 
Stood Byrhtnoth's band; he bade them with shields 
To form a phalanx, and to defend themselves stoutly, 
Fast holding the foe. The fight was near, 
The triumph at conflict ; the time had come 
105 "When fated men should fall in battle. 

Then arose an alarm ; the ravens soared. 
The eagle eager for prey ; on earth was commotion. 
Then sped from their hands the hardened spears, 
Flew in fury file-sharpened darts ; 
110 Bows were busy, boards met javelins. 

Cruel was the conflict ; in companies they fell ; 
On every hand lay heaps of youths. 
Wulfmere was woefully wounded to death. 
Slaughtered the sister's son of Byrhtnoth; 
11^ With swords he was strongly stricken to earth. 

To the vikings quickly requital was given; 
I learned that Edward alone attacked 



168 ^^^ ENGLISH POEMS 

Stoutly with his sword, not stinting his blows, 

So that fell at his feet many fated invaders ; 
120 For his prowess the prince gave praise and thanks ^ 

To his chamberlain brave, when chance would per- 
mit. 

So firm of purpose they fought in their turn, 

Young men in battle ; they yearned especially 

To lead their line with the least delay 
125 To fight their foes in fatal conflict, 

"Warriors with weapons. The world seethed with 
slaughter. 

Steadfast they stood, stirred up by Byrhtnoth; 

He bade his thanes to think on battle. 

And fight for fame with the foemen Danes. 
130 Ti^e fierce warrior went, his w^eapon he raised, 

His shield for a shelter ; to the soldier he came ; 

The chief to the churl a challenge addressed; 

Each to the other had evil intent. 

The seamen then sent from the south a spear, 
135 So that wounded lay the lord of the warriors ; 

He shoved with his shield till the shaft was broken, 

And burst the spear till back it sprang. 

Enraged was the daring one; he rushed with his 
dart 

On the wicked warrior who had wounded him sore. 
1^0 Sage was the soldier; he sent his javelin 

Through the grim youth's neck ; he guided his hand 

And furiously felled his foeman dead. 

Straightway another he strongly attacked. 

140. The soldier is Byrhtnoth. 



THE BATTLE OF MALDON 169 

And burst his burnie ; in his breast he wounded him. 
145 Through his hard coat-of-mail ; in his heart there 
stood 

The poisoned point. Pleased was the earl, 

Loudly he laughed, to the Lord he gave thanks 

For the deeds of the day the Redeemer had granted. 

A hostile youth hurled from his hand a dart ; 
150 The spear in flight then sped too far, 

And the honorable earl of ^thelred fell. 
By his side there stood a stripling youth, 

A boy in battle who boldly drew 

The bloody brand from the breast of his chief. 
155 The young Wulf mere, Wulfstan's son. 

Gave back again the gory war-lance ; 

The point pierced home, so that prostrate lay 

The Viking whose valor had vanquished the earl. 
To the earl then went an armed warrior ; 
160 He sought to snatch and seize his rings, 

His booty and bracelets, his bright shining sword. 

Byrhtnoth snatched forth the brown-edged weapon 

From his sheath, and sharply shook the attacker ; 

Certain of the seamen too soon joined against him, 
165 As he checked the arm of the charging enemy; 

Now sank to the ground his golden brand ; 

He might not hold the hilt of his mace, 
- Nor wield his weapons. These words still he spoke. 

To embolden the youths; the battle-scarred hero 
170 Called on his comrades to conquer their foes ; 

He no longer had strength to stand on his feet, 

151. This refers to Byrhtnoth. 



irjQ OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

he looked to heaven : 

' ' Euler of realms, I render thee thanks 
For all of the honors that on earth I have had ; 

175 Now, gracious God, have I greatest of need 

That thou save my soul through thy sovereign 

mercy, 
That my spirit speed to its splendid home 
And pass into thy power, Prince of angels, 
And depart in peace ; this prayer I make, 

180 That the hated hell-fiends may harass me not. ' ' 

Then the heathen dogs hewed down the noble one. 
And both the barons that by him stood — 
^If noth and Wulfmser each lay slaughtered ; 
They lost their lives in their lord's defence. 

185 Then fled from the fray those who feared to re- 
main. 
First in the frantic flight was Godric, 
The son of Odda ; he forsook his chief 
Who had granted him gifts of goodly horses ; 
Lightly he leapt on his lord 's own steed, 

190 In its royal array — no right had he to it ; 
His brothers also the battle forsook . 
Godwin and Godwy made good their escape, 
And went to the wood, for the war they disliked ; 
They fled to the fastnesses in fear of their lives, 

195 And many more of the men than was fitting. 

Had they freshly in mind remembered the favors, 
The good deeds he had done them in days of old. 
"Wise were the words spoken once by Offa 
As he sat with his comrades assembled in council : 



TEE BATTLE OF MALDON 171 

200 ^' There are many who boast in the mead-hall of 
bravery 
Who turn in terror when trouble comes. ' ' 

The chief of the folk now fell to his death, 
^thelred's earl; all his companions 
Looked on their lord as he lay on the field. 

205 Now there approached some proud retainers; 
The hardy heroes hastened madly, 
All of them eager either to die 
Or valiantly avenge their vanquished lord. 
They were eagerly urged by ^Ifric's son, 

210 A warrior young in winters ; these words he spoke — 
^If wine then spoke, an honorable speech : 

^^Eemember how we made in the mead-hall our 
vaunts. 
From the benches our boasts of bravery we raised. 
Heroes in the hall, of hard-fought battles ; 

215 The time has now come for the test of your courage. 
Now I make known my noble descent ; 
I come from Mercia, of mighty kinsmen; 
My noble grandsire's name was Ealdhelm, 
Wise in the ways of the world this elder. 

220 Among my proud people no reproach shall be made 
That in fear I fled afar from the battle. 
To leave for home with my leader hewn down, 
Broken in battle ; that brings me most grief ; 
He was not only my earl but also my kinsman. ' ^ 

225 Then harboring hatred he hastened forth. 

And with the point of spear he pierced and slew 
A seaman grim who sank to the ground 



230 



172 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

Under weight of the weapon. To war he incited 
His friends and fellows, in the fray to join. 
Offa shouted ; his ash-spear shook : 
^ ^ Thou exhortest, ^Ifwine, in the hour of need, 
When our lord is lying full low before us. 
The earl on the earth ; we all have a duty 
That each one of us should urge on the rest 
235 Of the warriors to war, while his weapons in hand 
He may have and hold, his hard-wrought mace. 
His dart and good sword. The deed of Godric, 
The wicked son of Offa, has weakened us all ; 
Many of the men thought when he mounted the 

steed, 
240 Eode on the proud palfry, that our prince led us 
forth ; 
Therefore on the field the folk were divided. 
The shield-wall was shattered. May shame curse the 

man 
Who deceived our folk and sent them in flight. ' ' 
Leofsunu spoke and his linden-shield raised, 
245 His board to defend him and embolden his fellows : 
^'I promise you now from this place I will never 
Flee a foot-space, but forward will rush. 
Where I vow to revenge my vanquished lord. 
The stalwart warriors round Sturmere shall never 
250 Taunt me and twit me for traitorous conduct. 
That lordless I fled when my leader had fallen, 
Ran from the war ; rather may weapons. 
The iron points slay me. ' ' Full ireful he went ; 
Fiercely he fought; flight he disdained. 



TEE BATTLE OF MALDON 173 

255 Dunhere burst forth ; his dart he brandished, 
Over them all; the aged churl cried, 
Called the brave ones to battle in Bryhtnoth's aveng- 
ing: 
^^Let no hero now hesitate who hopes to avenge 
His lord on the f oemen, nor fear for his life. ' ' 
260 Then forward they fared and feared not for their 
lives ; 
The clansman with courage the conflict began ; 
Grasped their spears grimly, to God made their 

prayer 
That they might dearly repay the death of their 

lord. 
And deal defeat to their dastardly foes. 
265 A hostage took hold now and helped them with 
courage ; 
He came from Northumbria of a noble kindred, 
The son of Ecglaf , ^scf erth his name ; 
He paused not a whit at the play of weapons. 
But unerringly aimed his arrows uncounted ; 
270 Now he shot on the shield, now he shattered a Viking ; 
With the point of his arrow he pierced to the mar- 
row 
While he wielded his weapons^ of war unsubdued. 

Still in the front stood the stalwart Edward, 
Burning for battle; his boasts he spoke: 
2''5 He never would flee a foot-pace of land, 
Or leave his lord where he lay on the field ; 

271. The two halves of the line rime in the original. 



180 



174 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

He shattered the shield-wall; with the shipmen he 
fought, 

Till on the treacherous tribesmen his treasure- 

giver's death 

He valiantly avenged ere his violent end. 
Such daring deeds did the doughty JEthric, 

Brother of Sibyrht and bravest of soldiers ; 

He eagerly fought and the others followed; 

They cleft the curved shields ; keenly they battled ; 

Then burst the buckler's rim, and the burnies sang 
285 A song of slaughter. Then was slain in battle. 

The seaman by Off a ; and the earth received him ; 

Soon Offa himself was slain in battle ; 

He had laid down his life for his lord as he prom- 
ised 
290 jn return for his treasure, when he took his vow 

That they both alive from battle should come. 

Hale to their homes or lie hewn down in battle. 

Fallen on the field with their fatal wounds ; 

He lay by his lord like a loyal thane. 
295 Then shivered the shields ; the shipmen advanced, 

Eaving with rage ; they ran their spears 

Through their fated foes. Forth went Wistan, 

Thurstan's son then, to the thick of the conflict. 

In the throng he slew three of the sailors, 
300 Ere the son of Wigeline sent him to death. 

The fight was stiff ; and fast they stood ; 

In the cruel conflict they were killed by scores, 

287. Offa: "the kinsman of Gad" in the original. The reference is to OflFa 
and we have avoided ^'onfusion by translating the phrase by the name of the 
man meant. 



THE BATTLE OF MALDON 175 

Weary with wounds ; woeful was the slaughter. 
Oswald and Eadwold all of the while, 
305 Both the brothers, emboldened the warriors, 

Encouraged their comrades with keen spoken words, 

Besought them to strive in their sore distress, 

To wield their w^eapons and not weaken in battle. 

Byrhtwold then spoke ; his buckler he lifted, 
310 The old companion, his ash-spear shook 

And boldly encouraged his comrades to battle : 
^*Your courage be the harder, your hearts be the 
keener, 

And sterner the strife as your strength grows less. 

Here lies our leader low on the earth, 
215 Struck down in the dust; doleful forever 

Be the traitor wdio tries to turn from the war-play. 

I am old of years, but yet I flee not ; 

Staunch and steadfast I stand by my lord. 

And I long to be by my loved chief. ' ' 
320 So the son of ^thelgar said to them all. 

Godric emboldened them; oft he brandished his 

lance. 

Violently threw at the Vikings his war-spear, 

So that first among the folk he fought to the end ; 

Hewed down and hacked, till the hated ones killed 
him — 
325 iSTot that Godric who fled in disgrace from the fight. 



APPENDIX— SELECTIONS FROM 
OLD ENGLISH PROSE 



APPENDIX— SELECTIONS FROM 
OLD ENGLISH PROSE 

ACCOUNT OF THE POET C^DMOK 

[From the Anglo-Saxon version of Bede's Ecclesiastical History. 
Text used: Bright 's Angla-Saxon Reader, pp. 8 ff.] 

In the monastery of this abbess [Hild] was a certain 
brother especially distinguished and gifted with the 
grace of God, because he was in the habit of making 
poems filled with piety and virtue. ^Hiatever he learned 

5 of holy writ through interpreters he gave forth in a 
very short time in poetical language with the greatest 
of sweetness and inspiration, well wrought in the Eng- 
lish tongue. Because of his songs the minds of many 
men were turned from the thoughts of this world and 

10 incited toward a contemplation of the heavenly life. 
There were, to be sure, others after him among the 
Angles who tried to compose sacred poetry, but none 
of them could equal him; because his instruction in 
poetry was not at all from men, nor through the aid of 

15 any man, but it was through divine inspiration and as 
a gift from God that he received the power of song. 
For that reason he was never able to compose poetry 
of a light or idle nature, but only the one kind that per- 
tained to religion and was fitted to the tongue of a 

20 godly singer such as he. 

179 



180 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

This man liad lived the life of a layman until he was 
somewhat advanced in years, and had never learned 
any songs. For this reason often at the banquets where 
for the sake of merriment it was ruled that they should 

25 all sing in turn at the harp, when he would see the harp 
approach him, he would arise from the company out of 
shame and go home to his house. On one occasion he had 
done this and had left the banquet hall and gone out to 
the stable to the cattle which it was his duty to guard 

30 that night. Then in due time he lay down and slept, and 
there stood before him in his dream a man who hailed 
him and greeted him and called him by name ; ^ ^ Csed- 
mon, sing me something. ' ^ Then he answered and said : 
*^I can not sing anything; and for that reason I left 

35 the banquet and came here, since I could not sing.'' 
Once more the man who was speaking with him said : 

* * No matter, you must sing for me. ' ' Then he answered : 
^^What shall I sing?" Thereupon the stranger said: 

* ^ Sing to me of the beginning of things. ' ' When he had 
^0 received this answer he began forthwith to sing, in 

praise of God the Creator, verses and words that he had 

never heard, in the following manner: 

Now shall we praise the Prince of heaven, 
The might of the Maker and his manifold thought, 
45 The work of the Father: of what wonders he 
wrought. 
The Lord everlasting when he laid out the worlds. 
He first raised up for the race of men 
The heaven as a roof, the holy Euler. 
Then the world below, the Ward of mankind. 



ACCOUNT OF TEE POET CMDMON 181 

50 The Lord everlasting, at last established 
As a home for man, the Almighty Lord. 
Then he arose from his sleep, and all that he had 
sung while asleep he held fast in memory; and soon 
afterward he added many words like unto them befitting 

55 a hymn to God. The next morning he came to the stew- 
ard who was his master and told him of the gift he had 
received. The steward immediately led him to the 
abbess and related w^hat he had heard. She bade assem- 
ble all the wise and learned men and asked Caedmon to 

^0 relate his dream in their presence and to sing the song 
that they might give their judgment as to what it was 
or whence it had come. They all agreed that it was a 
divine gift bestowed from Heaven. They then explained 
to him a piece of holy teaching and bade him if he could, 

^5 to turn that into rhythmic verse. When he received 

the instruction of the learned men, he departed for his 

house. In the morning he returned and delivered the 

passage assigned him, turned into an excellent poem. 

Thereupon, the abbess, praising and honoring the 

70 gift of God in this man, persuaded him to leave the 

. condition of a layman and take monastic vows. And 

this he did with great eagerness. She received him and 

his household into the monastery and made him one of 

the company of God^s servants and commanded that he 

'^^ be taught the holy writings and stories. He, on his 
part, pondered on all that he learned by word of mouth, 
and just as a clean beast chews on a cud, transformed 
it into the sweetest of poetry. His songs and poems 
were so pleasing that even his teachers came to learn 



182 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

80 and write what lie spoke. He sang first of the creation 
of the earth, and of the origin of mankind, and all the 
story of Genesis, the first book of Moses; and after- 
wards of the exodus of the Children of Israel from the 
land of Egypt and the entry into the Promised Land; 

85 and many other stories of the Holy Scriptures ; the in- 
carnation of Christ, and his suffering and his ascen- 
sion into heaven; the coming of the Holy Ghost and 
the teaching of the apostles ; and finally he wrote many 
songs concerning the future day of judgment and of 

90 the fearfulness of the pains of hell, and the bliss of 
heaven; besides these he composed many others con- 
cerning the mercies and judgments of God. In all of 
these he strove especially to lead men from the love of 
sin and wickedness and to impel them toward the love 

95 and practice of righteousness ; for he was a very pious 
man and submissive to the rules of the monastery. And 
he burned with zeal against those who acted otherwise. 
For this reason it was that his life ended with a fair 
death. 



ALFEED'S PREFACE TO HIS TRANSLATION 
OF GREGORY ^S ^^ PASTORAL CARE'' 

[Text: Blight's Anglo-Saxon Reader, pj). 26 ff.] 

King Alfred sends greetings to Wserferth in loving 
and friendly words. I let thee know that it has often 
come to my mind what wise men there were formerly 
throughout England among both the clergy and the 
^ laity, and what happy times there were then through- 
out England, and how the kings who held sway over 
the people in those days obeyed God and his ministers ; 
and how they preserved not only their peace but their 
morality also and good order at home and extended 

10 their possessions abroad; and how prosperous they 

were both with war and with wisdom ; and how zealous 

the clergy were both in teaching and in learning, and 

in all the services they owed to God ; and how foreigners 

■ came to the land in search of wisdom and learning, and 

1^ how we should now have to secure them from abroad if 
we were to have them. So complete was this decay in 
England that there were very few on this side of the 
Humber who could understand their rituals in English 
or translate a Latin letter into English ; and I feel sure 

20 that there were not many beyond Humber. So few there 
were that I can not remember a single one south of 
the Thames when I began to reign. Almighty God be 

183 



184 OLB ENGLISH POEMS 

thanked that we have any teachers among US now. . . . 
Then I considered all this, and brought to mind 

25 also how, before it had all been laid waste and burned, 
the churches throughout all England stood filled with 
treasures and books ; and there was a great multitude 
of God's servants, but they knew very little about the 
books, for they could not understand anything in them, 

20 since they were not written in their own language — as 
if they spoke thus : ^^Our fathers who held these places 
of old loved wisdom and through it acquired wealth 
and bequeathed it to us. Here we may still see their 
tracks, but we can not follow them, and hence we have 

35 now lost both the wealth and the wisdom, since we 
would not incline our hearts after their example. ' ' 

When I called all this to mind, I wondered very much, 
considering all the good and wise men who were for- 
merly throughout England and all the books that they 

■^0 had perfectly learned, that they had translated no part 
of them into their own language. But soon I answered 
myself and said : ' ' They did not expect that men should 
ever become as careless and that learning should decay 
as it has ; they neglected it through the desire that the 

45 greater increase of wisdom there should be in the land 
the more should men learn of foreign languages. ' ' 

I then considered that the law was first found in the 
Hebrew tongue, and again when the Greeks learned it, 
they translated it all into their own language. And the 

50 Eomans likewise when they had learned it, they trans- 
lated it all through learned scholars into their own lan- 
guage. And all other Christian people have turned 



GBEGOEY'S "PASTOBAL CABE" lg5 

some part into their own language. Wherefore it seems 
to me best, if it seems so to you, that we should trans- 

^^ late some books that are most needful for all men to 
know into the language which we can all understand 
and that we should bring about what we may very 
easily do with God's help if we have tranquillity; 
namely, that all youths that are now in England of 

60 free birth, who are rich enough to devote themselves 
to it, be put to learning as long as they are not fitted 
for any other occupation, until the time that they shall 
be able to read English writing with ease : and let those 
that would pursue their studies further be taught more 

6^ in Latin and be promoted to a higher rank. When I 
brought to mind how the knowledge of Latin had for- 
merly decayed throughout England, and yet many knew 
how to read English writing, I began among other 
various and manifold troubles of this kingdom to turn 
into English the book that is called in Latin Pastoralis 
and in English The Shepherd's Book, sometimes word 
for word, sometimes thought by thought, as I had 
learned it from Plegmund my archbishop, and Asser 
my bi Vnop, and Grimbald my priest, and John my priest. 
After ^. had learned it so that I understood it and so 
that ' could interpret it clearly, I translated it into 
Engli I shall send one copy to every bishopric in 
my ki and in each is a book-mark worth fifty 

mancu _ .. . d I command in God 's name that no man 
take the book-mark from the monastery. It is not cer- 
tain that there will be such learned bishops as, thanks 
be to God, we now have nearly everywhere. Hence 



70 



186 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

1 wish the books to remain always in their places, unless 
the bishop wishes to take them with him, or they be lent 
^5 out anywhere, or any one be copying them. 



THE CONVERSION OF EDWIN 

[From Alfred's translation of Bede's Ecclesiastical History. Text: 
Bright, Anglo-Saxon Header, p. 62, line 2 — p. 63, line 17.] 

When the king heard these words, he answered him 
[Paulinus, who had been preaching Christianity to 
him] and said that he was not only willing but expected 
to accept the faith that he taught ; the king said, how- 
^ ever, that he wished to have speech and counsel with 
his friends and advisers, so that if they accepted the 
faith with him they might all together be consecrated 
to Christ, the Fountain of Life. The bishop consented 
and the king did as he said. 

10 He now counselled and advised with his wise men, 
and he asked of each of them separately what he thought 
of the new doctrine and the worship of God that was 
preached. Cefi, the chief of his priests, then answered, 
^ ' Consider, oh king, what this teaching is that is now 

1^ delivered to us. I declare to you, I have learned for a 
certainty that the religion we have had up to the present 
has neither virtue nor usefulness in it. For none of 
thy servants has applied himself more diligently to 
the worship of our gods than I, and nevertheless there 

20 are many who receive greater gifts and favors from 
thee than I, and are more prosperous in all their under- 
takings. I know well that our gods, if they had had 

187 



188 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

any power, would have rewarded me more because I 
have more faithfully served and obeyed them. It seems 

25 to me, therefore, wise, if you consider that these new 
doctrines which are preached to us are better and more 
efficacious, to receive them immediately. ' ^ 

Assenting to his words, another of the king's wise 
men and chiefs spoke further: **0 king, this present 

20 life of man on earth seems to me, in comparison with 
the time that is unknown to us, as if thou wert sitting at 
a feast with thine eldermen and thanes in the winter 
time, and the fire burned brightly and thy hall was 
warm, and it rained and snowed and stormed outside ; 

35 there comes then a sparrow and flies quickly through 
thy house ; in through one door he comes, through the 
other door he goes out again. As long as he is within 
he is not rained on by the winter storm, but after a 
twinkling of an eye and a mere moment he goes imme- 

4f^ diately from winter back to winter again. Likewise 
this life of man appeareth for a little time, but what 
goes before or what comes after we know not. If there- 
fore this teaching can tell us anything more satisfying 
or certain, it seems worthy to be f ollow^ed. ' ' 



THE VOYAGES OF OHTHERE AND WULFSTAN 

rrrom Alfred 's version of Orosius 's Hi.(or, of m World. Text used : 
Bright 's Anglo-Saxon deader, pp. 38 ft. J 

Ohthere's Voyages 

Ohthere told liis lord, King Alfred, that he dwelt the 
farthest north of all the Northmen. He said that he 
lived in the northern part of the land toward the West 
Sea He reported, however, that the land extended very 

5 far north thence ; but that it was all waste, except m a 
few places here and there where the Fmns dwell, en- 
gaged in hunting in winter and sea fishing m summer. 
He said that on one occasion he wished to find out how 
far the land lay northward, or whether any man mhab- 

10 ited the waste land to the north. Then he fared norUi- 
ward to the land ; for three days there was waste land on 
his starboard and the wide sea on his larboard. Then he 
had come as far north as the whale hunters ever go 
Whereupon, he journeyed still northward as far as he 

15 could in three days sailing. At that place the land bent 

to the east-or the sea in on the land he knew not which ; 

but he knew that there he waited for a west wmd, or 

somewhat from the northwest, and then sailed east near 

he land, as far as he could in four days. There he had to 

20 ^vait for a wind from due north, since there the land 
bent due south-or the sea in on the land, he knew not 

189 



190 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

which. From there he sailed due south, close in to the 
land, as far as he could in five days. At this point a 
large river extended up into the land. They then f ol- 

25 lowed this river, for they dared not sail beyond it 
because of their fear of hostile reception, the land 
being all inhabited on the other side of the river. He 
had not found any inhabited land since leaving his own 
home ; for the land to the right was not inhabited all 

20 the way, except by fishermen, fowlers, and hunters, and 
these were all Finns ; to the left there was always open 
sea. The Permians had cultivated their soil very well, 
but they dared not enter upon it. The land of the Ter- 
finns was all waste, except where hunters, fishers, or 

35 fowlers dw^elt. 

The Permians told him many tales both about their 
own country and about surrounding countries, but he 
knew not how much was true, for he did not behold it for 
himself. The Finns and Permians, it appeared to him, 

^0 spoke almost the same language. He went hither on 
this voyage not only for the purpose of seeing the coun- 
try, but mainly for walruses, for they have exceedingly 
good bone in their teeth — they brought some of the 
teeth to the king — and their hides are very good for 

^5 ship-ropes. This whale is much smaller than other 
whales ; it is not more than seven ells long ; but the best 
whale-fishing is in his own country — those are eight 
and forty ells long, and the largest are fifty ells long. 
He said that he was one of a company of six who killed 

50 sixty of these in two days. 

Ohthere was a very rich man in such possessions as 



VOYAGES OFOHTHEBEAND WULFSTAN 191 

make up tlieir wealth, that is, in wild beasts. At the 
time when he came to the king, he still had six hundred 
tame deer that he had not sold. The men call these 

55 reindeer. Six of these were decoy-reindeer, which are 
very valuable among the Finns, for it is with them that 
the Finns trap the wild reindeer. He was among the 
first men in the land, although he had not more than 
twenty cattle, twenty sheep, and twenty swine, and the 

60 little that he plowed he plowed with horses. Their 
income, however, is mainly in the tribute that the Finns 
pay them— animals' skins, birds' feathers, whalebone, 
and ship-ropes made of the hide of whale and the hide 
of seal. Every one contributes in proportion to his 

65 means ; the richest must pay fifteen marten skins and 
five reindeer skins ; one bear skin, forty bushels of 
feathers, a bear-skin or otter-skin girdle, and two ship- 
ropes, each sixty ells long, one made of the hide of the 
whale and the other of the hide of the seal. 

70 He reported that the land of the Northmen was very 
long and very narrow. All that man can use for 
either grazing or plowing lies near the sea, and even 
that is very rocky in some places ; and to the east, along- 
side the inhabited land, lie wild moors. The Finns live 
75 in these waste lands. And the inhabited land is broad- 
est to the eastward, becoming always narrower the 
farther north one goes. To the east it may be sixty 
miles broad, or even a little broader ; and in the middle 
thirty or broader ; and to the north, where it was nar- 
80 rowest, he said that it might be three miles broad to the 
moor. Moreover the moor is so broad in some places 



192 ^^^ ENGLISH POEMS 

that it would take a man two weeks to cross it. 
In other places it was of such a breadth that a man 
can cross it in six days. 

^^ Then there is alongside that land southward, on the 
other side of the moor, Sweden, as far as the land 
to the north ; and alongside the land northward, the land 
of the Cwens (Finns). The Finns plunder the North- 
men over the moor sometimes and sometimes the North- 

^0 men plunder them. And there are very many fresh 
lakes out over the moor ; and the Finns bear their ships 
over the land to these lakes and then ravage the North- 
men ; they have very small and very light ships. 

Ohthere said that the place was called Halgoland, in 

^^ which he dwelt. He said that no man lived north of 
him. There is one port in the southern part of the land 
which is called Sciringesheal. Thither he said that one 
might not sail in one month, if he encamped by night and 
had good wind all day; and all the while he should sail 

100 close to land. And on the starboard he has first Ireland, 
and then the island that is between Ireland and this 
land. Then he has this land till he comes to Sciringes- 
heal, and all the way he has Norway on the larboard. 
To the south of Sciringesheal the sea comes far up into 

10^ the land; the sea is so broad that no man may see 
across. And Jutland is in the opposite direction, and 
after that is Zealand. The sea runs many hundred 
miles up in on that land. 

And from Sciringesheal he said that he sailed in five 

110 days to that port that is called Haddeby ; it lies between 

100. Ireland: Iceland is probably meant. 



VOYAGES OF OHTHEBE AND WULFSTAN I93 

the country of the Wends and the Saxons and the Angles, 
and belongs to the Danes. When he sailed away from 
Sciringesheal for three days, he had Denmark on the 
larboard and the wide sea on his starboard ; and then, 
11^ two days before he reached Haddeby, he had Jutland 
on his starboard and also Zealand and many islands. In 
that land had dwelt the English before they came hither 
to this land. And then for two days he had on his lar- 
board the islands which belong to Denmark. 

WuLFSTAN 's Voyage 

120 Wulfstan said that he set out from Haddeby, and 
that he arrived after seven days and nights at Truso, 
the ship being all the way under full sail. He had 
Wendland (Mecklenburg and Pomerania) on the star« 
board, and Langland, Laaland, Falster, and Sconey on 

125 the larboard; and all these lands belong to Denmark. 
And then we had on our larboard the land of the Bur- 
gundians (Bornholmians), and they have their own 
king. Beyond the land of the Burgundians we had on 
our left those lands that were first called Blekinge, and 

120 Meore, and Oland, and Gothland ; these lands belong to 
the Swedes. To the starboard we had all the way the 
country of the Wends, as far as the mouth of the Vis- 
tula. The Vistula is a very large river, and it separates 
Witland from Wendland ; and Witland belongs to the 

12^ Esthonians. The Vistula flows out of Wendland, and 
runs into the Frische Haff. The Frische Haff is about 
fifteen miles broad. Then the Elbing empties into the 



194 0^^ ENGLISH POEMS 

Frische Haff, flowing from the east out of the lake on 
the shore of which Truso stands ; and there they empty 

140 together into the Frische Haff, the Elbing from the 
east, which flows out of Esthonia, and the Vistula from 
the south, out of Wendland. The Vistula then gives its 
name to the Elbing, and runs out of the mere west and 
north into the sea ; hence it is called the mouth of the 

145 Vistula. 

Esthonia is very large, and there are many towns 
there, and in every town there is a king. There is also 
very much honey, and fishing. The king and the richest 
men drink mare 's milk, but the poor men and the slaves 

150 drink mead. There is much strife among them. There 
is no ale brewed by the Esthonians ; there is, however, 
plenty of mead. And there is a custom among the 
Esthonians that when a man dies he lies unburied in 
his house, with his kindred and friends, for a month — 

1^^ sometimes two ; and the kings and most powerful men 
still longer, in proportion to their riches ; it is some- 
times half a year that they stay unburnt, lying above 
ground, in their own houses. All the time that the body 
is within, drinking and merry-making continue until 

1^0 the day that he is burned. The same day on which they 
are to bear him to the funeral-pyre they divide his pos- 
sessions, whatever may be left after the drinking and 
pleasures, into five or six parts — sometimes into more, 
in proportion to the amount of his goods. Then they 

1^^ place the largest share about a mile from the town, 
then the second, then the third, until it is all laid within 
the one mile ; and the smallest portion must be nearest 



VOYAGES OFOHTHEBEAND WULFSTAN 195 

the town in which the dead man lies. Then there are 
gathered together all of the men in the land that have 
170 the swiftest horses, about six or seven miles from the 
goods. Then they all run toward the possessions, and 
the one who has the swiftest horse comes to the first and 
largest part, and so one after another till all is taken 
up; and the man who arrives at the goods nearest the 
175 town obtains the smallest part. Then each man rides 
his way with the property, and he may keep it all; and 
for this reason fast horses are very dear in that coun- 
try. "When the property is thus all spent, they bear him 
out and burn him along with his weapons and his rai- 
180 ment. And generally they spend all his wealth, with 
the long time that the corpse lies within and with the 
goods that they lay along the roads, and that the stran- 
gers run for and bear off with them. Again, it is a 
custom with the Esthonians to burn men of every tribe, 
185 and if any one finds a bone which is unburned he has 
to make amends for it. And there is one tribe among 
the Esthonians that has the power of making cold, and 
it is because they put this cold upon them that the 
corpses lie so long and do not decay. And if a man 
places two vessels full of ale or water, they cause both 
to be frozen over, whether it is summer or winter. 



190 



INDEX TO TITLES 

PAGE 

Account of the Poet Casdmon 179 

Alfred's Preface to His Translation of Gregory's ''Pastoral Care". . 183 

Badger, A 51 

Battle of Brunnanbiirg, The 159 

Battle of Maldon, The 163 

Bede's Death Song 84 

Bible, A 52 

Bookworm, A 54 

Bow, A 52 

Brunnanburg, The Battle of 159 

Coedmon, Account of the Poet 179 

Casdmon 's Hymn 83 

Charm Against a Sudden Stitch 42 

Charm for Bewitched Land 38 

Christ, Selections from the 95 

Conversion of Edwin, The 187 

Crossing of the Eed Sea, The 90 

Deor 's Lament 26 

Dough , 54 

Dream of the Eood, The 108 

Edwin, The Conversion of 187 

Elene, Selections from the 103 

Exeter Gnomes 56 

Exodus, Selections from 90 

Fates of Men, The 58 

Fight at Finnsburg, The 34 

Finnsburg, The Fight at 34 

Genesis, Selections from 85 

Grave, The 157 

Gregory's ''Pastoral Care," Preface to 183 

Horn, A. 50 

Husband 's Message, The 75 

Isaac, The Offering of 85 

Judith 116 

Maldon, The Battle of 163 

Nightingale, A 49 

197 



198 OLD ENGLISH POEMS 

PAGE 

Offering of Isaac, The 85 

Ohthere and Wulfstan, The Voyages of 189 

' ' Pastoral Care, ' ' Preface to 183 

Phoenix, The 132 

Eeed, A 54 

Eiddles 44 

I. Storm, A 44 

II. Storm, A 45 

III. Storm, A 46 

V. Shield, A 48 

VII. Swan, A 49 

VIIL Nightingale, A 49 

XIV. Horn, A 50 

XV. Badger, A 51 

XXIII. Bow, A 52 

XXVI. Bible, A 52 

XLV. Dough 54 

XLVII. Bookworm, A 54 

LX. Eeed, A 54 

Euin, The . . 78 

Seafarer, The 68 

Shield, A 48 

Storm, A 44 

Storm, A 45 

Storm, A 46 

Swan, A 49 

Voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan, The 189 

Waldhere 29 

Widsith 15 

Wife 's Lament, The 72 



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